When the singer conducted an interview with Sky News on June 28 to criticise Boris Johnson’s government for its dismissal of the UK music industry’s concerns over the impact that Brexit red tape was having on British musicians’ capacity to tour across Europe, a number of his peers were scathing about his comments, given that Dickinson has made no secret of the fact that he cast a ‘Leave’ vote in the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum in June 2016, and has previously been vocal in advocating for the benefits of Brexit. In his Sky News interview, the singer called on Boris Johnson’s government to “get your act together.”
“A musician supports Brexit then finds out that Brexit screws musicians and then complains,” former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr tweeted that same day. “Well done mate.”
“It’s slightly disturbing that people cannot contemplate that other people have other views contrary to themselves,” Dickinson tells Classic Rock in response. “It’s like a dog whistle, people start running around and jumping up in down in anger, and I think it’s out of all proportion.
"If you decide to do something reasonably radical in any walk of life, there are bound to be teething problems. If you suddenly change from Windows to a Mac, there will be things that really piss you off as you get adjusted to the new operating system. And someone might say, ‘Okay, in the long run, maybe being on a Mac will leave you better off, but in the meantime, how do we figure this out?’ That’s a perfectly reasonable position to take.”
“People are deliberately choosing to misunderstand the position I was taking in that interview. It’s unfortunate that both sides are seeking to take political advantage. And there’s ultimately no point in that. Everybody has to get on.
"I have a German sister, I’ve a French partner who’s half-Italian who chooses to live in England because she thinks it’s great, and Brexit should make absolutely zero difference to those relationships. And it doesn’t. It’s only at the political level where they need to lock themselves in a room, and have no food or water until they figure this shit out.”
Dickinson dismissed the suggestion that his complaints about the effects of Brexit are hypocritical, or self-serving.
“The bizarre thing is that I’m less concerned with Iron Maiden’s position because we have the resources and the demand and we’re inputting a huge amount into the European economy playing to close to two million people next summer,” he says. “It’s not us I’m concerned about, it’s the younger bands who don’t have the time to go through all the paperwork and all the nonsense and there should be a way of streamlining those things for all performers. Culturally, we’re all very close, and so I think it’s something that needs to be a work in progress.
“I think it’s people trying to score political points at a high level, disregarding the fact that people still live next door to one another and still want to visit each other. Yes, we will be economically different and yes, we will have a separate independent sovereign political leadership, which is what I voted for, but we still want to get along.”
Speaking on the same topic, Sir Elton John has said Brexit presents a "looming catastrophe" for the UK.
"I want to be clear that the issues of visa-free and permit-free touring aren't about the impact on me, and artists who tour arenas and stadiums," he said.
"This gravest of situations is about the damage to the next generation of musicians and emerging artists, whose careers will stall before they've even started due to this infuriating blame game.
"If I had faced the financial and logistical obstacles facing young musicians now when I started out, I'd never have had the opportunity to build the foundations of my career and I very much doubt I would be where I am today."
“I’m livid about what the government did when Brexit happened,” he told The Guardian. “They made no provision for the entertainment business, and not just for musicians, actors and film directors, but for the crews, the dancers, the people who earn a living by going to Europe.
“The government are philistines. We’ve got used to governments – especially the British government – just telling us lies every day, and I don’t feel OK with that… I’m 74 years of age and I just don’t get this unfairness and this ridiculous ability to lie through your teeth every fucking minute of the day.”
Iron Maiden are on the cover of the new issue of Metal Hammer, and Bruce Dickinson is interviewed in the next issue of Classic Rock.