Brexit: Carry On Touring share open letter to government as “rebuttal” of visa-free touring claim

The letter hits out at the "mountains of red tape" now needed for UK artists to tour in the EU

The Carry On Touring organisation have shared an open letter to the government, which they call a “rebuttal” of last month’s claims that visa-free touring in 19 EU countries will be possible for UK artists post-Brexit.

Earlier this year, the music industry heavily criticised the UK government after the Brexit deal secured with the EU failed to negotiate visa-free travel and Europe-wide work permits for musicians and crew.

This came with fears and predictions that new rules and red tape would lead to musicians and crew facing huge costs to future live music tours of the continent – which could create a glass ceiling that prevents rising and developing talent from being able to afford to do so.


Last month, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) announced that visa-free travel will be allowed for musicians and performers in 19 European countries, while talks are ongoing with the remaining nations.

“We, as government, have spoken to every EU Member State about the issues facing our creative and cultural industries when looking to tour in Europe,” a DCMS spokesperson said at the time.

“From these discussions 19 Member States have confirmed UK musicians and performers do not need visas or work permits for short-term tours. These countries are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Sweden.”

Brexit tour summit
Musicians protesting against Brexit in 2019. CREDIT: Richard Baker/Getty Images

Now, a new open letter from Carry On Touring to the DCMS, shared via its founder Tim Brennan, has hit out at the proposals, saying they are misleading.

In a thread of tweets about the issues, Brennan said smaller artists will now have to navigate “mountains of red tape and cost” in order to tour the EU. “Whilst the bigger acts such as Elton [John] and Ed Sheeran will be able to deal with the red tape and extra costs when they tour the EU, the medium & smaller Artists will face real problems, and for many it will simply become unviable…” he added.


“Our livelihoods depend on putting renewed pressure on the government to sort out the post Brexit creative touring mess that they have created,” the organisation wrote in the foreword to its letter.

In the letter itself, which you can read in full here and add your signature to here, Carry On Touring says the music industry needs “a workable solution for the UK to get us back on tour.”

“The latest announcement from your department claims performers and their support crews can tour freely in 19 EU countries. This is not a solution for UK touring professionals, creatives and artists. Rather it is a devastating blow to an already hard-hit sector which makes a huge and vital contribution to the UK economy,” it reads.

The letter ends by calling on the government to “take urgent action to resolve the problem created by the TCA and engage with your counterparts across Europe to reach a resolution which works. We hope you will now fully commit to getting UK tours back on the road and us back to work.”

Others to criticise the latest government announcement include Elton John, who called it a “rehash of what we already know”.

In a statement posted to Twitter, John said his excitement about the Department of Culture, Media & Sport’s latest declaration had “soon turned to disappointment after realising it seems to be just a rehash of what we already know”.

“There needs to be far more clarity on exactly what progress has been made,” he continued. “There is a small window of opportunity to get this right to ensure the next generation of musicians and emerging artists have the ability to tour. Speed is of the utmost importance. We need to sustain momentum to enforce change.”