Music Industry left ‘outraged’ over reports UK ministers rejected ‘Visa-Free’ touring deal Post-Brex

A growing mob of angry musicians and industry professionals has gathered online to express their disgust and disappointment in the UK Government, following reports that they rejected a ‘visa-free’ touring deal for musicians and performers as part of the post-Brexit deal between the EU and UK.

The backlash followed an article published by The Independent on Sunday (10th January), which reported that the UK rejected a proposed 90-day visa-free exemption for touring musicians and performers, a clause that would have eased the pain of the divorce and softened the financial blow for musicians who rely on touring on the continent. The accusations reportedly came from an unnamed EU official who was close to the negotiations. The source stated that this type of clause is a ‘standard’ proposal for all of its non-EU trade deals and is currently enjoyed by the likes of the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

The report went on to suggest that the clause was rejected as the UK does not intend to offer the same level of freedom to EU artists touring in the UK. With one of the main agendas for Brexit being the end of free-movement, it seems that this outcome was inevitable.

It appears that the major road-block on the proposal was Priti Patel’s strict crackdown on immigration which has introduced tough restrictions on touring EU musicians.

Going forward, both EU artists touring the UK and UK artists touring in EU countries will need to apply for a work visa to allow them to stay for more than 30 days - as well as providing proof of savings and sponsorship certificates from events organisers. For UK musicians, failure to come to a bloc-wide agreement could result in an even bigger headache for tour organisers, as they will be required to apply for visas for each EU member state that they intend to perform in.

It is understood that the UK Government did request a similar exemption on a 30-day basis, but rejected the 90-day proposal to ensure the deal fell into line with the UK's new regulations relating to movement and immigration.

The news is yet another blow to the industry in a year that has seen unprecedented challenges for the arts sector as a whole, in particular the live performance and touring sectors. So, it’s no surprise that many frustrated artists and industry professionals were taking to social media to criticise the Government over the news.

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke reacted calling the Government “Spinless f***ks”, while Geoff Barrow of Portishead started the hashtag “#BorisKilledMusic”, as reported by The NME. The pair were joined by several other artists to portray their disappointment, including Lily Allen, Tim Burgess, and the band Shame.

The Musicians Union joined the charge in a Tweet which read: “We are angry and alarmed at reports that our own elected representatives chose to turn down an EU offer of visa-free touring by British musicians, after reassurances that our £101.5bn #CreativeArts and £5.8bn #MusicIndustry were a priority,”

While UK Music Chief Executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin stated:

“Who is at fault is irrelevant and a blame game helps no one.

The important thing is that both sides appear to genuinely want this issue sorted, so it is imperative that they get around a table and urgently agree on a solution.”

The accusations did not come without a rebuttal from the UK Government, calling the claims “incorrect and misleading speculation from anonymous EU sources” and that “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.”, as reported by NME.

This echoed a statement previously released by The Department of Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) that the UK had “pushed for a more ambitious agreement with the EU”, which would have covered musicians but its “proposals were rejected.”, as reported in the Guardian.

A petition was launched last year when it became clear how musicians may be affected in a Post-Brexit landscape, calling on the UK 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”. The petition was backed by the likes of Laura Marling, Biffy Clyro, and Dua Lipa and gathered over 230,000 signatures since its launch.

Many hoped that 2021 would bring positivity and prosperity but it seems that uncertainty is a theme that will be continuing into 2021.

By Darren Hay

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