Vince Cable ridiculed after claiming Brexit ‘poses risk to Strictly Come Dancing’

Ann Widdecombe and Owen Jones clash over Brexit deal

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Strictly Come Dancing will continue as normal this weekend despite Robert Webb and Dianna Buswell’s departure. Peep Show star Mr Webb, who had open heart surgery two years ago, pulled out after consulting his heart specialist. Week four gets underway on Saturday night, and the BBC confirmed on Wednesday that another contestant will still leave the show. Strictly is still running strong in its 19th series, with more than eight million tuning in to watch the launch episode in mid-September.

Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable, who appeared on the show in the 2010 Christmas edition, drew criticism for his fears about the show’s future after Brexit.

Sir Vince, a staunch Remainer, served as leader of the party from 2017 to 2019, leading to their best electoral performance since the 2010 election.

Speaking to The Telegraph in 2018, he said he was concerned that immigration rules after Brexit could see the show lose many of its foreign professional dancers.

Strictly boasts dancers from a range of different countries across the world, including Johannes Radebe from South Africa, Spaniard Gorka Marquez and Nancy Xu from China.

Sir Vince said: “As British society falls apart, it could pose a risk to Strictly.

“If we have a cack-handed immigration policy, like what we have for non-EU citizens, all kinds of perverse decisions could be made.

Of the 18 dancers that started this year’s competition, just three are British nationals.

Sir Vince added: “We may have to ringfence the citizenship arrangements to protect them.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a longstanding Eurosceptic, immediately hit back at Sir Vince’s claims.

The North East Somerset MP, and Leader of the House of Commons, said: “The idea that Brexit will have any effect on Strictly is simply silly.

“I wouldn’t hold myself up as an expert on Strictly. I watched it when Ed Balls was on it but never since.”

He said it is “hard to see” that immigration rules would be key for whether Strictly was successful or not.

He added: “There are already effective and efficient immigration provisions for artists such as opera singers and ballet dancers.”

Sir Vince remains an enthusiastic ballroom dancer, even at 78, and reached the final of the 2018 over-65’s British ballroom competition.

He performed remarkably well on Strictly too, scoring an impressive 36 out of 40 from the judges, including a perfect 10 from head judge Len Goodman.

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Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, another long-term critic of the EU, tore Sir Vince’s claims apart.

He said: “Since the majority of Strictly professional dancers are non-EU citizens, I am sure we will have no problem with dealing with EU citizens in the same way after Brexit.

“This is more desperate Project Fear with tassels on it from Vince Cable.

“It is surely time that he waltzes off into retirement.”

Sir Vince stepped down as MP for Twickenham shortly before the December 2019 election.

However, he is not the only one to be concerned about the arts after Brexit.

Renowned British opera singer Dame Sarah Connolly warned Britain is at risk of losing its place among the world’s leading musical nations amid new visa and work permit issues.

While appearing on Desert Island Discs last week, she asked: “Where is that next generation going to come from if they can’t get known?

Discussing her fears for the future of British opera, she said: “Without some kind of situation where British musicians can spend a significant amount of time in Europe, establishing their careers, I am very concerned that [we will lose] what we have at the moment, which is roughly 20 percent of the global excellence.

“Some of the greatest singers in the world are British.”

A press release from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on Monday confirmed 20 EU Member States will offer visa and work permit free routes for UK musicians and performers.

The list includes France, Germany, Italy, Ireland and the Netherlands.

Discussions remain ongoing with the countries that do not allow visa and work permit free touring, which include Spain, Greece and Portugal.

The statement stressed the desire to allow British creatives to continue “growing their audiences and showing the best of British creativity to the world”.

Strictly Come Dancing returns on Saturday at 7pm on BBC One. It will also be available on BBC iPlayer.

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