Former Brexit minister David Frost has admitted that the Brexit deal he helped negotiate presents “a whole set of problems” for touring musicians and their crew.
The deal was on the receiving end of a huge backlash from across the music industry last year. The UK government has been accused of jeopardising the future of touring for UK artists due to their failure to negotiate visa-free travel and Europe-wide work permits for musicians and crew, which could make future tours of the continent unaffordable for many artists.
Lord Frost, who was Chief Negotiator of Task Force Europe from January 2020 until he handed in his resignation back in December, was among the chief defenders of the deal, saying in June that he “felt sorry that [creative workers] have to face this situation”.
“The country took a decision to leave the European Union and to end freedom of movement, but that brings with it big change,” he told MPs. “There’s no point in pretending that change hasn’t happened.”
Lord Frost has now admitted, however, that it was a mistake not to compromise with the EU over the issue during the Brexit negotiations.
“We should take another look at mobility issues,” he said during a recent lecture (via The Independent). “There is a whole set of problems here that is making life difficult on both sides: youth mobility, movement of specialists like musicians and artists.”
Lord Frost went on to argue that “these problems can be solved” without compromising the UK’s decision to end free movement of EU citizens, despite government ministers repeatedly insisting that this is not possible.
Frost added that he had been “too purist” about the issue, and said that a fresh deal that removes “excessive paperwork and process requirements” is required.
“We should try to get to it,” he said, before stating that “this time, we should try harder”.
Fresh talks with the EU over the issue of visa-free touring have yet to be mooted by the government, and Labour MP Kevin Brennan has subsequently described Lord Frost’s comments as “an astonishing admission of guilt”.
“Purist dogma has ruined successful British businesses and hit artists income hard –they will rightly be furious with an incompetent government that sacrificed them for no good reason,” he told The Independent.
Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, chief executive of UK Music, added: “These comments confirm everything the music industry has been warning about for more than a year now, and should be a call to action for ministers.
“If even the chief negotiator believes we should look at mobility issues again, there is no excuse for government not to act on this.”