Liam Gallagher, Ed Sheeran and Elton John slam Brexit deal shunning visa-free travel for musicians

More than 100 musicians say they have been "shamefully failed" by the government

The likes of Elton John, Liam Gallagher and Ed Sheeran have all signed an open letter to criticise the UK Government’s Brexit deal, which has shunned the chance for touring musicians to enjoy visa-free travel in Europe.

More than 100 musicians say they have been “shamefully failed” by the post-Brexit trade deal in a new open letter published in The Times.

The letter, which has also been backed by the likes of Queen‘s Brian May and Roger Waters, calls on the government to “urgently do what it said it would do and negotiate paperwork-free travel in Europe for British artists and their equipment”.


As well as warning of a “gaping hole” where free movement previously existed, the signees argue that the cost of permits and other regulations 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”.

Roger Daltrey’s inclusion among the signatories also caused a stir online due to his previous pro-Brexit comments and claims that it wouldn’t have any impact on music, but he has since spoken out to clarify his position.

UK, EU flags
The UK and EU flags (Picture: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

The letter was published hours after government ministers rejected pleas for them to fight for a visa-free touring plan for musicians and their crew with the EU.

A row erupted last week after Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said that the EU was to blame for not permitting visa-free travel for artists, following reports that a “standard” proposal that would exempt performers from needing a visa to enter countries in the EU for trips under 90 days was actually turned down by the UK government.

Then, as NME revealed, the EU hit back by denying claims that they had rejected the UK’s “ambitious proposals”, saying that they had in fact offered the UK 90 days of visa-free travel – but the UK responded with their own proposal of just 30 days. See more info on the different deals here.


Despite wide anger from artists and music industry bosses calling on the government to “take this seriously and fix it”, ministers rejected the idea yesterday – insisting that “taking back control” of borders is their priority and that talks would only resume if Brussels “changes its mind”.

Those comments came from MP Caroline Dinenage as she claimed that the EU’s offer would not have ended free movement for citizens after Brexit (breaking a Tory promise to voters) and that it would have enabled “visa-free short-stays for all EU citizens”.

Brexit protestors
Protestors demonstrate against Brexit (Picture: Getty Images)

“That is just simply not compatible with our manifesto commitment to taking back control of our borders,” she said, before revealing that all details of the failed negotiations would be published and repeating that they planned to work with European nations “to find ways to make life easier” for musicians.

Politicians from Labour and the Liberal Democrats also spoke out on the issue to NME, claiming that “the government blaming the EU is predictable but it does nothing to help our creative industries” – and calling for the stalemate to end by negotiations resuming to find a viable solution.

Last week also saw music industry insiders amplify their fears that the current Brexit deal could prevent UK artists from being able to play in the US, claiming that if talent is unable to acquire “international recognition” through playing neighbouring European countries with ease, then this could make them ineligible for a visa.