Only one EU country signs deal for post-Brexit music tours

Boris Johnson had previously promised to "fix" issues around visas so UK musicians could tour the continent permit-free

Only one EU country has signed a post-Brexit deal to save UK musicians from needing costly work permits to tour the continent, according to reports.

Since the UK left the EU in January 2021, the government has failed to negotiate visa-free travel and Europe-wide work permits for musicians and crew.

Despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s promise to fix the issues that could stop artists from being able to tour Europe due to increased costs, only Spain has signed up to allow UK musicians to tour the country without visas.

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The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) is now calling on the new Brexit minister Liz Truss to resolve the problems and take the same “hardline approach” as her predecessor, Lord Frost. In a letter to the government, the ISM’s chief executive Deborah Annetts wrote [per the Independent]: “All the problems first identified as facing the creative sector due to the TCA, in the Brexit trade deal, still remain.

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

“The sector is now facing mountains of red tape, which is both costly and time-consuming. The proposed solutions such as bilateral agreements with EU states have not materialised, apart from with Spain, and there are serious issues with cabotage, carnets, and designated ports.”

Annetts added: “All these issues are adversely impacting the UK music industry and the broader creative industries, which is worth £116bn per annum, the same as finance or construction.”

In a tweet sharing an article about the letter on the ISM’s official Twitter account, the organisation said it wants “a visa waiver agreement, progress on Cabotage and Carnets [and] an end to the expensive red tape”. “These steps would make 2022 a better year for musicians,” it said.

In the Spanish deal, which was announced in November, UK musicians and their crew will no longer need visas to tour the country for less than 90 days. However, major issues around transporting merchandise and cabotage rules persist, with the current regulations only letting trucks that are travelling from the UK to make one stop in an EU state before having just seven days to make two more before returning home.

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In October, the UK government was accused of more “spin and misinformation” as no progress was made over the ongoing touring crisis. Two months earlier, it “announced” that “short-term” visa-free travel without work permits would be allowed for musicians and performers in 19 European countries. However, those rules were already in place before Brexit.

Music industry figures have continuously expressed concerns that the new rules and red tape around touring Europe will create huge costs to future live music tours for both musicians and crew. That could have a knock-on effect of creating a glass ceiling that prevents rising and developing talent from being able to afford to tour the continent.

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