Leon Neal/Getty Images – A group of pro-European demonstrators protest near the Houses of Parliament in a bid to raise awareness of the need for freedom of movement for touring musicians.
The picture was taken back in January, 2019 in London, England, when the UK was still scheduled to leave the European Union by the end of March that year.
According to a report by the Independent, it was the UK government that rejected an EU proposal that would have allowed artists to tour the UK without requiring a visa post-Brexit.
The report came shortly after the UK claimed the exact opposite: that it was the EU that rejected the UK’s proposal for a visa-free touring agreement.
According to the Independent, the proposal would have exempted performers from the costs and bureaucracy associated with securing visas for 90 days, but the UK government insisted on denying it to EU artists visiting the country.
“It is usually in our agreements with third countries, that [work] visas are not required for musicians. We tried to include it, but the UK said no,” the Independent quotes a EU source close to the negotiations.
With many artists in the UK and Europe out of work since the first lockdowns hit, it’s crucial that they can resume touring and earning a living from live as soon as possible.
A visa process places yet another hurdle in their way to recovery. While headline acts will be able to compensate the additional costs and employ teams that can deal with the bureaucracy, newcomers won’t.
In the months and years leading up to Brexit, musicians and crews were repeatedly assured by the UK government, that they would be able to tour the EU as before, and vice versa.
Leon Neal/Getty Images – UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson signs a page of the Brexit trade deal with the EU in number 10 Downing Street, Dec. 30, 2020 in London, United Kingdom.
Musicians and their crews were left out of any type of reciprocal deal between the United Kingdom and the European Union that would have ensured their cross-border travel remains unimpeded.
As the Independent’s source stated, “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.”
As things currently stand, EU musicians, like artists from outside the EU, must apply for visas to visit for more than 30 days. They will also need to provide “proof of savings and a sponsorship certificate from an event organiser,” according to the report, which continues:
“The Independent understands the UK did ask for a similar 30-day exemption for its performers, but rejected 90 days – to fit with its own new rules.”
What makes this development extra controversial is the fact that the UK government initially made it sound like the EU rejected a UK proposal to include “the work done by musicians, artists and entertainers, and their accompanying staff, in the list of permitted activities for short-term visitors.”
The UK’s live music association LIVE released the following statement: “The live music industry is already facing a catastrophic situation due to the Covid shutdown. LIVE is calling on the Government to urgently clarify what was offered by the EU to enable visa-free tours by artists and crew.”
UK Music CEO Jamie Njoku-Goodwin tweeted: “UK & EU both saying they wanted to allow musicians to tour freely post-Brexit but were rebuffed by the other side. A blame game helps no one – there is political will on both sides to fix this, so they should get around the table and agree a solution now.”
– Annabella Coldrick
Chief executive of the Music Managers Forum
Annabella Coldrick, chief executive of the UK’s Music Managers Forum, said: “Last February, the Home Secretary stood up in the House of Commons and claimed that the situation for British musicians touring Europe would be completely unchanged, and that touring routes would operate as they do now. A year one, and such assurances appear to be misplaced and, if recent newspaper reports are true, as a result of intransigence on the part of the UK Government.
The exact statement of Home Secretary Priti Patel can be read in the UK government’s debate protocols here
Continued Coldrick: “This is utter insanity. Music is at the heart of Britain’s national culture, and a sector where we are genuinely world beating. For the sake of our artists, our musicians, and the tens of thousands of people who work in live music, we need urgent clarity from Ministers as to what is going on and an immediate commitment to resolve the situation to avoid a serious impact on our ability to tour the EU post-COVID.”
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