A step backward: the future for diversity in the performing arts sector
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The government claims the EU rejected their Brexit visa-free touring plans

The recent Brexit deal failed to secure visa-free travel for touring artists, which dealt a seismic blow to British artists hoping to afford the costs of touring abroad. In response, a petition calling for the government to ensure artists visa-free travel has already gained over 200,000 signatures. They have now responded by passing the blame onto the EU for people working in creative industries not travelling for work without paying for a costly visa.

The UK secured a Brexit deal at long last on December 24th and will officially leave the European Union on January 1st, 2021. This issue comes after musicians were left off the list of workers exempt from entering the EU without a visa. The new deal will also make it difficult for European artists to travel to the United Kingdom. The new rules state that once free movement ends on January 1st, anyone from the EU that wants to perform in the UK must apply for an expensive visa. Additionally, musicians must provide proof of savings and a certificate of sponsorship from the event organisers.

The petition has proven the music community strength and the gritted collective determination it has to offer. “We would like the UK Govt 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 & Carnet exception [allowing the temporary import or export of goods without having to pay duty or VAT] for touring equipment,” the petition reads.

The petition’s creator Tim Brennan added: “As a freelancer I and many like me travel through the EU countless times a year on different tours and events, this will become impossible due to cost and time if we do not have visa free travel.”

This petition has been signed and shared by the likes of Tim Burgess, IDLES, Louis Tomlinson, Mogwai, Declan McKenna and Foals — now the government has issued a response. A spokesperson told NME: “Short-term visitors to the EU can continue to join business meetings, receive training and attend sporting and cultural events, amongst other permitted activities, without requiring a visa. Some Member States may allow other types of business travel visa-free, so people should check the rules of the country they are travelling to.

“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. We recognise that there could be some additional processes for those working in creative industries, but we have ensured that the visa application processes for longer-term business travel will be transparent to provide certainty and clarity.”

Labour MP, Tracy Brabin made a passionate speech in Parliament on the issue on Wednesday, in which she laid out how the greatest victims of this are the people that you don’t see: “Of course, this is easy to focus on stars, but this is about haulage companies, producers, production crew, technicians, artists, professional musicians, dancers and actors — all who contribute to the £111billion industry and it’s no wonder, a petition calling for the government to remedy this has been signed over 195,000 times and rising. The bill places bureaucracy, cost and delays where their once was frictionless trade.”

Check out the petition and add your name here.

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