(Credit: Ryan Arnst)

Government once again rejects visa-free Brexit touring petition in debate

The parliamentary debate around the petition calling for musicians to access visa-free travel to allow them to tour the EU freely ended in the government once again shifting all the blame towards the EU, refusing to accept responsibility for the chaos.

MPs previously agreed to debate the petition after it racked up over 280,000 signatures. The failure in Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal arrived after the government rejected the EU’s offer of visa-free short stays that allowed artists to work for 90-days in the area over 180 days and vice versa. However, Britain tried to minimise this period to just 30-days. The EU rejected this, which has led to the government continuously blaming Brussels for the failure to secure an agreement.

The debate took place virtually last night and streamed live on parliament live TV. The Conservative Minister for Digital and Culture in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media Caroline Dineage suggested that it was currently off the table and claimed that “the UK pushed for ambitious arrangements” but that “quite simply the EU rejected this and there was no counteroffer”.

She then added: “This isn’t a blame game, the outcome is deeply regrettable” and that “our door remains open [with] scope to return to this issue should the EU change its mind”.

Dineage then boasted how UK artists are allowed to visit France without a visa for 90 days. She continued, “Performers from the UK are still very much welcome to perform in the EU and vice versa” and highlighted that “each EU member state will have their own requirements for this”. 

“The UK remains open for musicians to tour here,” she said, before stating how crew from non-visa countries such as EU member states and the US can still work in the UK for up to one month without needing a visa if they’re paid by a UK source, and they can stay for up to three months with “a registered tour sponsor”.

“The UK’s offer to touring professionals is more generous than that of other EU member states,” Ms Dineage claimed, arguing that “it is absolutely within the gift of each EU member state to improve their own arrangements if they want to encourage a more vibrant and welcoming environment in their own country.”

She continued: “As a government, we will engage in bilateral partners to find ways to make life easier for those working in the creative industries in countries across the EU – but we can all play a part in this. There is an onus on all of those who care about this issue, for all those who signed this petition, these are not EU rules. These are rules decided in each member state country.”

“This is about action and not words, it is about working collaboratively and urgently to address the range of issues raised with a view to improving processes and decreasing burdens to help the sector work and tour confidently in the EU,” she added.

Chair of the committee, Labour MP, Catherine McKinnell stated that this Brexit deal would make touring Europe “a logistical nightmare”. She then said how independent artists “will never be able to afford to play in Europe again” and threatens to “destroy British DIY music – arguably one of the UK’s greatest exports”.

“We are the country that produced The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Queen and other cultural exports that are revered around the world,” said McKinnell. “It would be an absolute tragedy to lose that status as a cultural hub. So we need to see real leadership and foresight from the government to urgently get back to the table and sort this out.”

“We’ll have to make some difficult choices in terms of where we visit,” Maximo Park frontman Paul Smith told Far Out about how the new-deal will effect his band. “Usually, we would visit places where we don’t play to loads of people, like 300-capacity venues or something. We might just have to fly into Germany where we play to 1000 or 1500 people and festivals.”

“It makes us poorer as a country, culturally speaking. We’re shutting it off to other people coming in and sharing their culture with us. I think that’s a key thing that was maybe overlooked when we’re talking about going over there. British bands can’t export this product, but again, it’s about sharing culture and allowing people to mix instead of being insular.

“But, they weren’t willing to compromise on the amount of days yet because of this anti-immigrant rhetoric so that they can say, ‘We don’t allow people in, we’re tough on immigration, and we’re tough on people coming across our borders’. Which just plays to people’s worst fears, it’s a very regressive attitude, but, doesn’t surprise me at all,” Smith adds.