The UK Government has said that their “door remains open should the EU change its mind” over plans to allow musicians and their crew to tour Europe visa-free.
- READ MORE: “It’s going to be devastating” – here’s how Brexit will screw over British touring artists
Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit trade deal with the EU saw workers from some professions being allowed to travel on business without the need to apply for a visa. However, musicians and their crew were not covered in the deal, adding huge costs to future tours of the continent – which would prevent rising and developing UK talent from being able to afford to do so, creating a potential “glass ceiling” and threatening the stability of the £5.8 billion music industry.
Last month, a petition calling for Europe-wide visa-free touring for musicians was launched and has since received over 250,000 signatures. Responding to the criticism, a government spokesperson blamed the EU and told NME that they had rejected their proposals, before last weekend saw reports emerge 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. They denied this, and now say that they are willing to reopen negotiations with the EU to find a solution.
“It is not true we turned down a bespoke arrangement from the EU to allow musicians to work and perform in member states,” a government spokesperson told NME. “The UK Government has and always will support ambitious arrangements for performers and artists to be able to work and tour across Europe.”
Asked about what “ambitious arrangements” were put forward, they replied: “As suggested by the creative arts sector, the UK proposed to capture the work done by musicians, artists and entertainers, and their accompanying staff, through the list of permitted activities for short-term business visitors. This would have allowed musicians and support staff to travel and perform in the UK and the EU more easily, without needing work-permits.
“Unfortunately the EU repeatedly refused the proposals we made on behalf of the UK’s creative arts sector. We are clear that our door remains open should the EU change its mind. We will endeavour to make it as straightforward as possible for UK artists to travel and work in the EU.”
NME has contacted the European Commission for a response to the latest comments. Last week, while highlighting what business travel visa allowances had been made, a European Commission spokesperson told NME: “The UK has chosen to no longer allow the free movement of EU citizens to the UK. It also refused to include a chapter on mobility in the Agreement.
“These choices inevitably mean that business travel between the EU and the UK will no longer be as easy as it currently is.”
David Martin, CEO of the UK body the Featured Artists Coalition, told NME that with cooperation offered from all sides there was now “no excuse” for a working solution to be found for touring musicians and their crew.
“The reality of the current conditions for overseas artists touring into the UK and for UK artists touring across Europe are now laid bare,” he told NME. “As a net music exporter, we will lose out. Thankfully, government representatives, including Minister of State for Digital and Culture, Caroline Dinenage, and those in the EU, have made clear that both wish to have a barrier-free system for artists.
“It is great to see that this will exists, and they must now get on and deliver. Government is aware that the FAC and our colleagues across the industry are standing by to support in any way necessary to make this happen. There is no excuse.”
Speaking to NME last month, Chief Executive of the Music Managers Forum Annabella Coldrick said that the current deal would impact on the UK music industry being an “outward-looking and global business”, and would hinder its progress when live gigs are set to return later in 2021.
“The deal throws a whole lot of friction and bureaucracy into the system, and the resulting uncertainties could create havoc with touring plans,” she told NME. “The burdens for upcoming British artists, who are already running to the tightest of budgets, are particularly worrying.”
As well as arguing that the government could find a way to provide support to absorb the new additional costs, Coldrick added: “The simplest way forward would be the negotiation of a free Europe-wide Visa-free cultural work permit. Such a permit could provide the certainty that artists and their managers crave and support the existence of pan-European touring in the future. Music is such a fundamental and valuable asset to the UK, and we should be doing everything possible to ensure it remains that way.”
Music industry figures have also warned that the impact of the Brexit deal could also prevent rising talent from being able to play in US.
Having attracted support from the likes of Foals, Dua Lipa, Biffy Clyro, Tim Burgess, Garbage and many, many more while surpassing over 250,000 signatures, the petition will now be considered for a debate in Parliament – while music fans are still being encouraged to sign it as well as write to their MP.