Roger Daltrey responds after being called out for past Brexit comments

The rock veteran signed an open letter calling for visa-free travel for musicians after previously saying "what's Brexit got to do with rock music?"

The Who frontman Roger Daltrey has responded after his decision to sign a letter supporting visa-free travel for musicians has caused a stir online. The singer previously spoke out in support of Brexit and claimed that it wouldn’t have any impact on music.

Daltrey joined the likes of Liam Gallagher, Ed Sheeran, and Elton John as over 100 artists signed an open letter slamming the UK Government for having “shamefully failed” the music industry in Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.

The letter called 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” and argued that otherwise “many tours [will be] unviable, especially for young emerging musicians who are already struggling to keep their heads above water owing to the Covid ban on live music”.

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Daltrey’s support for the letter follows on from his previous well-publicised pro-Brexit comments, which he made in 2019. Asked if Brexit would be “bad for British rock music”, he replied: “No. What’s it got to do with the rock business? How are you going to tour in Europe? Oh dear. As if we didn’t tour Europe before the fucking EU. Oh give it up!”

He added: “If you want to be signed up to be ruled by a fucking mafia, you do it. Like being governed by FIFA.”

Now, Daltrey has issued a response regarding his decision to sign his letter and lend his support to the visa-free touring campaign. “I have not changed my opinion on the EU. I’m glad to be free of Brussels, not Europe,” he told NME in a statement. “I would have preferred reform, which was asked for by us before the referendum and was turned down by the then president of the EU.”

The frontman continued: “I do think our government should have made the easing of restrictions for musicians and actors a higher priority. Every tour, individual actors and musicians should be treated as any other ‘Goods’ at the point of entry to the EU  with one set of paperwork. Switzerland has borders with five EU countries, and trade is electronically frictionless. Why not us?”

Earlier today, music fans, figures from the entertainment world and social media users took to Twitter to re-share his original statements and comment on his U-turn.

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Responding to Daltrey’s comments last year, Music Venue Trust CEO and former gig promoter Mark Davyd told NME:  “The problem is that at a grassroots music level, we don’t form a huge part of the conversation when it comes to considering what’s happening to musicians. You get Roger Daltrey going on television saying, ‘Everything will be fine after Brexit’ because he used to play in Europe in the 1960s. Then you’ve got James Blunt saying it doesn’t matter and won’t affect him – and you know what? He’s right. With the amount of money he makes from touring, he won’t even notice.”

“This is basically a tax on new and emerging musicians. It’s not a tax that will have any impact on your James Blunts and Roger Daltreys. Someone will sit in an office and fill in all of their paperwork.”

The open 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.

Despite widespread anger from artists and music industry bosses calling on the government to “take this seriously and fix it”, ministers rejected the idea yesterday (January 19) – insisting that “taking back control” of borders is their priority and that talks would only resume if Brussels “changes its mind”.

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.

The XX perform live during a concert at the Astra Club on January 22, 2010 in Berlin, Germany.(Photo by Jakubaszek/Getty Images)
The XX perform live during a concert at the Astra Club on January 22, 2010 in Berlin, Germany.(Photo by Jakubaszek/Getty Images)

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.

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