The UK government has denied claims that they rejected a deal from the EU that would allow musicians to enter countries that belong to the union without a visa.
Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit trade deal with the EU saw workers from some professions allowed to travel on business without the need to apply for a visa. However, musicians were not covered in the deal, adding huge costs to tours of the continent. Last month, the government blamed this on the EU for this, telling NME that they had rejected their proposals.
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According to the Independent, a “standard” proposal that would exempt performers from needing a visa to enter countries in the EU for trips under 90 days was turned down by the government.
“It is usually in our agreements with third countries, that [work] visas are not required for musicians,” an EU source told the paper. “We tried to include it, but the UK said no.”
The UK were reported to have turned down the offer because they do not want to give the same freedoms to EU artists visiting the UK.
Now, a government spokesperson has denied the claims.
“This story is incorrect and misleading speculation from anonymous EU sources,” a spokesperson told NME. “The UK pushed for a more ambitious agreement with the EU on the temporary movement of business travellers, which would have covered musicians and others, but our proposals were rejected by the EU.”
The NME has contacted the European commission for further clarity. Many figures from the UK music scene have reacted furiously to the claims, calling for more clarity and transparency as well as information on a way out of the current predicament.
A government spokesperson previously told NME that it was Brussels that had rejected the idea of allowing artists to tour the EU on a visa-free basis.
However, the Independent’s source said: “The UK refused to agree because they said they were ending freedom of movement. It is untrue to say they asked for something more ambitious.”
Industry figures have now called for the government to give full details of what was offered for UK musicians in the Brexit trade deal talks. “The live music industry is already facing a catastrophic situation due to the Covid shutdown,” said LIVE CEO Greg Parmley.
“LIVE is calling on the Government to give urgent clarification as to what was offered by the EU to enable visa-free tours by UK artists and crew. All parties need to work quickly to ensure that once Covid restrictions are lifted UK artists are able to work across the EU with the same freedom that has been secured for people doing other business activity.”
“Unbelievable,” Lily Allen wrote of the news on Twitter. “Actually, completely believable!”
Unbelievable, actually, completely believable ! https://t.co/GepTItyW4U
— LILYALLEN2.0 (@lilyallen) January 9, 2021
Shame added: “TODAY IN: THE LEAST SURPRISING NEWS EVER”. See more artist reactions below.
TODAY IN: THE LEAST SURPRISING NEWS EVER https://t.co/p4lWjdAzm3
— shame (@shamebanduk) January 9, 2021
— 🇬🇧Geoff Barrow 🇬🇧 (@jetfury) January 9, 2021
Useless pricks https://t.co/skK2Sco7mP
— Hard-Fi💙 (@HARD_FI) January 9, 2021
If this is correct, as an industry we need to take strong collective action. We have all campaigned long and hard for our touring rights, pre pandemic. With the industry on its knees, this is deeply alarming.
— getcapewearcapefly (@forgetcape) January 9, 2021
Great. Cool really cool 🤬 https://t.co/dqKUJJvEDj
— Sam Carter (@samarchitects) January 9, 2021
— ed simons (@eddychemical) January 9, 2021
A petition was launched after details of the deal and what it meant for musicians emerged last year. It called on the government to “negotiate a free cultural work permit that gives us visa-free travel throughout the 27 EU states for music touring professionals, bands, musicians, artists, TV and sports celebrities that tour the EU to perform shows and events and carnet exception for touring equipment”.
It now has over 200,000 signatures – meaning it will be considered for debate by Parliament – and has been backed by the likes of Biffy Clyro, Dua Lipa, Foals, Nadine Shah, The Charlatans’ Tim Burgess and more. Music fans are also being encouraged to write to their MPs.
Music manager Ellie Giles set out how much touring the EU in a post-Brexit world might cost for bands last month (December 26). Based on a band of six on a four-day tour, requiring visas for three different countries, she estimated it would cost nearly £3,500.
“Yes, it wasn’t viable before, it was tough but now it’s made it TWICE as bad,” she wrote.