After a long impasse following Britain leaving the EU in January 2020, yesterday (August 4th), British musicians woke up to some encouraging news. The UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced that visa-free short term touring will actually be permitted in 19 EU countries, regardless of the Brexit deal.
This news comes as a lifeline to many musicians whose careers had been significantly impacted by the Brexit deal and the pandemic. It follows months of campaigning by British musicians for a deal to be reached. The movement became known as #LetTheMusicMove and included British legends such as Elton John, Radiohead, Portishead and the Chemical Brothers. Elton John said that the crisis would be “crucifying” to young artists.
In the increasingly fraught saga, chief Brexit negotiator David Frost argued that resolving the touring crisis wasn’t his remit. Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke snarled in response on Twitter: “Oh yeah, pal? you think?”. Even Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson, who was originally a supporter of Brexit, called the government’s handling of the looming crisis “guff”.
Frost always assumed the position that British musicians could work without visas in 17 of 27 European Union countries. However, his detractors argued that this was an oversimplified response to a complicated issue. They argued that he was dodging the problems of work permits, travel costs and paperwork.
Luckily, now much of the desperation will dissipate, and British musicians can get back to what they do best. Yesterday’s surprise announcement revealed the countries that are waiving the Brexit visa requirement. These are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Sweden.
The DCMS has also revealed that it has formally approached Spain, Croatia, Greece, Portugal, Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus in a bid for them to join the 19 countries already signed up.
Listen to Jason Williamson of Sleaford Mods talk about Brexit’s effect on touring, below.