Ministers reject call to fight for visa-free Brexit touring plan for musicians

The music world reacts angrily as Tory MPs say that "taking back control" of borders is priority

Government ministers have rejected pleas for them to fight for a visa-free touring plan for musicians and their crew with the EU.

After Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit trade deal failed to secure visa-free travel for artists wishing to tour Europe (adding huge costs to future live music tours of the continent will be incurred and preventing rising and developing UK artists from being able to afford it), a row erupted over who was responsible.

Last week, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden put the blame for this at the foot of the EU 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, the NME revealed, the EU then hit back – denying claims that they had rejected the UK’s “ambitious proposals” and that in fact they 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 anger from artists and music industry bosses calling on the government to “take this seriously and fix it“, as fans continue to sign the 250,000-strong petition and write to their MPs calling for visa-free travel for musicians and crew to be established, ministers have today rejected the idea – insisting that “taking back control” of borders is their priority and that talks would only resume if Brussels “changes its mind”.

The comments came from MP Caroline Dinenage speaking in the Commons today, 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”.

“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.

A number of figures from the world of music have since responded on social media.

“There are 359 mentions of the £1.2billion fishing industry in the 1248 page Brexit Deal, and the outcome is a completely unworkable shambles,” wrote Mark Davyd of the Music Venue Trust. “The £110billion Creative Industries aren’t mentioned once. So let’s see how well that plays out.”


Tim Burgess of The Charlatans added: “Those who knew repeatedly said what Trump would do. Some didn’t believe it until The Capitol was stormed. So many tried to warn that Brexit would cause endless issues but so many lies were told. Reality is starting to bite hard…”

The Musicians’ Union voiced their disappointment and argued that a visa-free musicians’ passport is still necessary and that “the Government had failed to understand what musicians need to keep touring in the EU.”

Today saw politicians from Labour and the Liberal Democrats speak 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.

CREDIT: Getty Images

At the height of the row last week, Dowden had said that “it was the EU letting down music on both sides of the Channel – not us”, before EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said that he “regretted that the British didn’t display any greater ambition”.

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