Post-Brexit Touring: UK Government Makes Underwhelming Announcement

A European Union (EU) flies alongside a British Union flag, also known as a Union Jack in London.
Jason Alden/Bloomberg
– A European Union (EU) flies alongside a British Union flag, also known as a Union Jack in London.
In all the negotiations between Britain and the EU, touring artists seem to have been forgotten.

The UK government today announced that “visa-free short-term touring” will be  “allowed in 19 member states.” What sounds like a hugely positive headline is mostly “spin,” according to the country’s Featured Artists Coalition.

19 EU member states have confirmed, that UK musicians and performers do not need visas or work permits for short-term tours, it states on the UK government’s website. These countries are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Sweden.
It goes on to state that ministers working in the government’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sports committee are now approaching Spain, Croatia, Greece, Portugal, Bulgaria, Romania, Malta and Cyprus to work out a post-Brexit solution for touring artists.
The UK campaign #letthemusicmove, launched by the Music Managers Forum (MMF) and the Featured Artists Coalition (FAC), responded to today’s announcement, saying it offered “nothing more than we already knew. 
David Martin.
Courtesy of FAC
– David Martin.
CEO of the UK’s Featured Artists Coalition.

“It remains that the UK’s music industry is in a far less advantageous position now than it was pre-January. Despite the spin, this statement represents an admission of failure. Failure to fulfil the promises made by Government about securing our industry’s future during negotiations, failure to ‘fix’ the issue, as per the PM’s statement of March this year, and failure to provide certainty around touring in almost a third of EU countries, eight months after the music industry was dealt a no-deal scenario.”

Pollstar reached out to FAC CEO David Martin to find out where exactly the government announcement falls short of expectations.
“Well, firstly, they’re not prepared to publish any guidance on those 19 countries,” he explained, “so it doesn’t mean that all of those 19 countries have the same rules. One of those countries might allow you in for five days a year, one of those countries might allow you in without a cost, but you have to register. There’ll be a lot of discrepancy across those 19.”
The announcement only pertains to visas and work permits, but doesn’t tackle a bulk of other issues posed by Brexit, like the carnet situation for artists’ equipment as well as absurd rules like the one that allows UK touring vehicles three-stops only in Europe before having to return home.
What is more, the eight countries left out of the announcement represent almost a third of all EU member states, “meaning that a third of those countries around Europe are potentially even more prohibitive for our artists. So, this is not news to us at all, we’ve known this stuff since January, we’ve known that there’s going to be 27 different regimes,” according to Martin, who thinks, that “it really is an admission from government that they’re only just getting around to speaking to people now.”
Throughout the Brexit negotiations, the British government had assured the live sector that touring agreements would be in place when the country finally left the EU.
Eight months in, and it sounds like conversations with individual member states are just starting, according to Martin, who attended a FAC meeting with government on the very morning of the Aug. 4 “visa-free touring” announcement, yet wasn’t told that such an announcement was coming.
Even if the visa situation in those 19 countries had been sorted in a straight-forward manner, it would still leave out important markets for UK artists, such as Spain, “As you know, tours usually work on a multi country basis. As soon as there is a problem in one territory, it potentially has a knock on impact for the neighboring territory, and for the viability of a tour,” Martin explained.
Issues around cabotage and haulage remain, the UK government has issued yet undisclosed advice to make the use of splitter vans, the most important vehicle for up-and-coming bands in particular, illegal to use.
“Splitter vans are carrying both goods and people, so those vehicles fall between two pieces of legislation, one that covers transport of goods, and one that covers transports of people. Splitter vans, as it stands, and this is advice from government, are no longer legal to be used for touring, where there are people and goods in Europe. So that affordable route to tour is off the table.”
#letthemusicmove has published its four main asks from government on the campaign’s website: 
– Urgently deliver a Transitional Support Package (TSP) to cover new, additional costs for touring artists and crews in the EU.
– Deliver long term solutions for UK artists and crew to continue working in all EU countries, without costly permits and bureaucracy.
– Address restrictive new rules which limit UK vehicles to just three stops when touring in the EU.
– Streamline entry routes into the UK for international artists and their crews.
The FAC statement sent out in response to today’s government announcement concludes:
“We launched #LetTheMusicMove in June which saw thousands of artists sign up to highlight the crisis that our industry finds itself in. Yet, there has been no political representation in the meetings on the issues for months, let alone any signal that the government is ‘straining every sinew’ to help our £6bn sector.  
“If there is a serious intention to fix the problems created by the government’s failure in negotiations, they must start by being honest with our sector and the public about the current status regarding EU touring. As a start, the government must publish full details on a country-by-country basis, outlining the exact requirements for touring performers and crew across all 27 member states.”