This is why European tours could be off the table for UK bands and musicians

Wednesday, 20th January 2021, 9:47 am
Updated Wednesday, 20th January 2021, 10:30 am
Hundreds of UK musicians have signed a letter saying that they have been "shamefully failed" by the Government (Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images)
Hundreds of UK musicians have signed a letter saying that they have been "shamefully failed" by the Government (Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images)

More than 100 of the biggest UK music stars have written to the Government saying that performers have been “shamefully failed” by post-Brexit travel rules.

The likes of Sir Elton John, Liam Gallagher, Ed Sheeran and Brian May criticised the Government’s Brexit deal for not including visa-free travel for musicians. The group urged the Government to “do what it said it would do” and negotiate paperwork-free travel to Europe for British artists and their equipment.

Since the UK left the European Union (EU), and free movement ended, performing artists looking to tour in the EU must now seek separate permits to work in many of the 27 member states.

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They will additionally have to pay for expensive permits to cross borders with their equipment and trucks carrying their kit, or they could see their journeys capped.

‘This failure will tip many performers over the edge’

The letter, which was published in The Times, says that there is a “gaping hole where the promised free movement for musicians should be”.

The subsequent costs for work permits and other red tape will make “many tours unviable, especially for young emerging musicians who are already struggling to keep their heads above water, owing to the Covid ban on live music”.

The letter also adds: “This negotiating failure will tip many performers over the edge.”

Other signatories include Nicola Benedetti, Sir Simon Rattle, Sting, Glastonbury organisers Michael and Emily Eavis and The Who frontman Roger Daltrey.

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, commented: “World-renowned performers, emerging artists from every genre and the most respected figures from leading organisations within our sector are now sending a clear message.

“It is essential for the Government to negotiate a new reciprocal agreement that allows performers to tour Europe for up to 90 days, without the need for a work permit.”

‘Touring musicians will have to check domestic immigration and visitor rules’

Speaking at the House of Commons on 19 January, SNP MP Pete Wishart asked Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage about visa arrangements for UK musicians in the EU.

Dinenage said: “UK cultural professionals seeking to tour in the EU will be required to check domestic immigration and visitor rules for each member state in which they intend to tour.

“Although some member states allow touring without a permit, others will require a pre-approved via and/or a work permit.”

‘The door is open’

Later in the debate, Dinenage said that the “door is open” if the EU was willing to “consider the UK’s very sensible proposals” on visa arrangements for musicians. She said that the EU had rejected the UK’s plan, but that the Government was willing to revisit the situation again.

Dinenage explained: “The EU did not offer a deal that would have worked for musicians.

“It’s quite simple, the EU in fact made a very broad offer which would not have been compatible with the Government’s manifesto commitment to take back control of our borders.

“Let’s focus on the future, if the EU is willing to consider the UK’s very sensible proposals then the door is open… I am very happy to walk through it. I will be the first one through that door.”

‘UK refused to engage in discussions with EU’

An EU official reportedly told the Guardian that the UK had turned down its standard proposal of 90 days’ work in a 180 day period during the discussion table on mobility.

This proposal traditionally covers the likes of musicians, athletes and journalists, but it could have been expanded to include technical staff, if the UK had been willing to negotiate on freedom of movement, the official said.

They added: “Would we have had an issue with it? Not necessarily. We were proposing our standard list [of exemptions].

"If we had begun discussions in [mobility], maybe that would have been different. But the UK refused to engage in our discussions at all. That’s the most important point."