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UK Government says their “door remains open should the EU change its mind” on post-Brexit touring


Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal failed to secure visa-free travel in the EU 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 European Union’s fault — these claims were deemed false by Brussels.

Now, the UK Government has stated that their “door remains open should the EU change its mind” over plans to allow musicians and their crew to tour Europe visa-free, once again insinuating that there is no truth to those in the EU’s claims that the UK rejected their offer. This statement follows an EU source telling The Independent: “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.”

The same 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 then 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.”

“It is not true we turned down a bespoke arrangement from the EU to allow musicians to work and perform in member states,” a government spokesperson has now told NME. “The UK Government has and always will support ambitious arrangements for performers and artists to be able to work and tour across Europe.

“As suggested by the creative arts sector, the UK proposed to capture the work done by musicians, artists and entertainers, and their accompanying staff, through the list of permitted activities for short-term business visitors. This would have allowed musicians and support staff to travel and perform in the UK and the EU more easily, without needing work-permits.

“Unfortunately the EU repeatedly refused the proposals we made on behalf of the UK’s creative arts sector. We are clear that our door remains open should the EU change its mind. We will endeavour to make it as straightforward as possible for UK artists to travel and work in the EU.”

Meanwhile, Paul Pacifico, CEO of The Association of Independent Music (AIM), has commented: “Much about Brexit is not as the UK music industry wanted and there are, inevitably, complexities to the UK’s new relationship with the EU. However, it is essential that we focus on real issues where they arise, such as work permits, VAT and data, and work with Government and EU counterparts to fix them. 

“We must remain disciplined and focussed to ensure the music industry makes the most of every opportunity in spite of these problematic areas whilst we continue to push for a better outcome.”