The recently announced Brexit deal failed to secure visa-free travel for touring artists, a factor 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 quickly gained over 200,000 signatures leading to the Conservative government claiming that the issue was the fault of the European Union. However, now those claims have been refuted, and it is alleged that Boris Johnson rejected the offer from Brussels.
The UK secured a Brexit deal at long last on December 24th and officially left 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 rules state that any artist from the UK who wants to tour the EU for more than 30 days must apply for visas like non-EU artists from the start of this month. Additionally, musicians must provide proof of savings and a certificate of sponsorship from the event organisers.
“It is usually in our agreements with third countries, that [work] visas are not required for musicians. We tried to include it, but the UK said no,” an EU source has told The Independent. The publication also understands the UK did ask for a 30-day exemption for its performers but rejected 90 days as it didn’t align with their new rules. However, the government has responded to this by stating they “pushed for a more ambitious agreement which would have covered musicians and others, but our proposals were rejected by the EU”.
A Government source hit back at the claims, telling NME: “This story is incorrect and misleading speculation from anonymous EU sources. 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.”
This is discredited by The Independent’s source, who told the publication: “The UK refused to agree because they said they were ending freedom of movement. It is untrue to say they asked for something more ambitious.”
There is now an outcry from the industry to fully disclose what was offered to UK musicians by the EU. “The live music industry is already facing a catastrophic situation due to the Covid shutdown,” said LIVE CEO Greg Parmley.
Parmley added: “LIVE is calling on the government to give urgent clarification as to what was offered by the EU to enable visa-free tours by UK artists and crew. All parties need to work quickly to ensure that once Covid restrictions are lifted UK artists are able to work across the EU with the same freedom that has been secured for people doing other business activity.”
Labour’s shadow culture minister, Alice McGovern stated: “If Boris Johnson’s Tories have stopped musicians from touring in Europe to make a political point, then music fans will not forgive them. Music is a huge export for the UK and touring and performing is now one of the main ways artists make money – so why would the Tories deliberately make it harder for musicians to make the most of opportunities in Europe?”
Musicians have quite rightly acted furiously to the report about the government and have taken to social media to, see a selection of the reactions to the news below.