Culture Secretary’s claims of visa-free touring in 17 EU countries branded “misleading”

Post-Brexit touring campaign Carry On Touring asks Oliver Dowden to give "urgent clarity" over the situation

UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden’s new claims that artists will be able to tour visa-free in 17 of the 27 countries in the European Union post-Brexit have been branded as “misleading” by a prominent campaign group.

After over 300 figures from the arts industry signed an open letter last month urging the government to act following a “lack of progress” regarding the post-Brexit touring crisis, Dowden today (May 14) shared new information on how things will work when acts are back out on the road on the continent.

Speaking to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Dowden revealed that he has spoken to every EU member state about the issue since the new rules came in back in January, and said he understood that “some paid touring activities” will be possible in 17 of the 27 EU countries. He added that the picture now seems “much more positive” than he first thought.


In response to the claims, Tim Brennan, leader of the Carry On Touring campaign, who have organised a UK-EU summit called ‘Day Of Action’ next week, shared a statement questioning the legitimacy of Dowden’s claims.

“Oliver Dowden’s assertion that there is permit free access to 17 of the EU 27 countries is misleading,” the statement – which you can read in full below – read.

“There are differential access rules and a requirement for work permits beyond allowances in those countries in terms of duration – which range from 7 days in any one year to 90 days in Germany and France.

“The government must recognise the highly difficult landscape we have to navigate – even within those countries with some allowance.”

The message added: “Carry On Touring are calling on Oliver Dowden to give creative touring professionals some urgent clarity and certainty to make swift progress towards resolution.

“Our ask for a Cultural Passport (a VISA waiver agreement and Schengen-wide work permit with free access) remains unchanged.”


PM Boris Johnson’s Brexit trade deal, which was passed last December, failed to secure visa-free travel for UK artists and their crew as well as Europe-wide work permits. That sparked fears that acts will face huge costs for future live tours of the continent, which could prevent rising and developing artists from being able to afford to do so.

Discussing his “extensive programme of engagement with EU member states,” Dowden added in his speech: “We have engaged with every member state and off the back of that we have got a much clearer picture about the extent of restrictions and it varies enormously between countries.

“And I can tell you our current analysis is that (in) at least 17 out of the 27 member states some paid touring activities are possible without needing visas or work permits. So that is a much more positive picture than initially appeared to be the case.

“The next thing we are doing is making sure we effectively communicate that so there is a better understanding of how people can tour anyway in those countries without need for further change.”

Brexit tour summit

Back in March, Boris Johnson pledged to fix the work permit issue that could impact UK touring musicians and crew members post-Brexit.

Speaking to NME about how the situation would impact on them back in February, artists including Nova Twins said that it would make planning future European tours “a nightmare” – and echoed the industry’s fears that work for crew members could be lost to the EU.

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