The Who frontman Roger Daltrey has responded to criticism labelling him a hypocrite after signing a letter supporting visa-free travel for musicians. Daltrey, who previously offered public support in favour of Brexit, brazenly stated in 2019 that the decision to leave the European Union it would not affect the music industry.
This backlash arrived following the announcement that Daltrey had joined over 100 artists, including Liam Gallagher, Ed Sheeran, and Elton John in condemning the UK Government for having “shamefully failed” the music industry. This letter comes after Boris Johnson failed to secure visa-free touring for artists in his Brexit deal, despite an offer being on the table from Brussels. Conservative MP Caroline Dinenage acknowledged the situation earlier this week. She claimed that the EU’s solution that they offered would not have ended free movement for citizens after Brexit and it would have allowed “visa-free short-stays for all EU citizens”.
The artists’ letter states, “Urgently do what it said it would do and negotiate paperwork-free travel in Europe for British artists and their equipment”. The letter then went on to say, “Many tours [will be] unviable, especially for young emerging musicians who are already struggling to keep their heads above water owing to the Covid ban on live music”.
Daltrey’s inclusion in the letter was somewhat surprising to many people following his famous pro-Brexit comments, which he made in 2019 whilst appearing on Sky News. The interviewer asked Daltrey if Brexit would be “bad for British rock music”, he replied: “No. What’s it got to do with the rock business? How are you going to tour in Europe? Oh dear. As if we didn’t tour Europe before the fucking EU. Oh, give it up! If you want to be signed up to be ruled by a fucking mafia, you do it. Like being governed by FIFA.”
The Who leader has now stated in response to NME: “I have not changed my opinion on the EU. I’m glad to be free of Brussels, not Europe. I would have preferred reform, which was asked for by us before the referendum and was turned down by the then president of the EU.”
The singer added: “I do think our government should have made the easing of restrictions for musicians and actors a higher priority. Every tour, individual actors and musicians should be treated as any other ‘Goods’ at the point of entry to the EU with one set of paperwork. Switzerland has borders with five EU countries, and trade is electronically frictionless. Why not us?”