Write to your local MP: Where is music in the Brexit deal?

The Brexit deal between the UK and the EU has extremely damaging consequences for the music industry. UK musicians now face a mountain of red tape and extra costs, which threatens the viability of working in the EU and individual livelihoods.

The ISM’s external affairs team is campaigning tirelessly in protect musicians’ interests in the post Brexit world. Writing to your local MP will assist us in our lobbying work and with more people pressuring the government on the same issue, we are more likely to achieve change.

You can read more about our advice on writing letters before you get started. Your first-hand experiences are vital for persuading politicians to support our campaigns. So make sure to use your own situation and experience to make it more personal. If you send an e-mail to your local MP, please cc us in at [email protected] and do contact us to share your feedback about our template letter, or if you would like to know more about campaigning work.

Template letter

[Address of local MP]


Dear [insert local MP name]

RE: Where is music in the Brexit deal?

As one of your constituents, I am writing to ask if you will contact the Government on my behalf asking what steps they are taking to support touring UK musicians post-Brexit.

The Brexit deal has significant consequences for the music industry and for musicians like me. [Insert short description of the important of international touring to your income and livelihood] In fact, research by the Incorporated Society of Musicians found that 44% of musicians earning up to half of their income in the EU before the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the agreement does not include any provisions for the creative services industry, which will add a great deal of red tape to musicians like myself. This threatens my ability to work in the EU in the future at a time when large parts of the music workforce have had no source of income since March 2020 due the COVID-19 crisis.

Firstly, it is extremely concerning that there are no provisions in the Brexit deal accounting for the nature of UK musicians' short-term work, including performing, recording, teaching, collaborating and other activities. This means that when I am seeking work in the EU I now need to meet the various requirements of each member state. Unfortunately, I need to apply for a short-term work permit before travelling to work in a number of EU countries including Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Bulgaria, Denmark, Italy, and Slovenia. With applications taking up to 3 months, this makes touring across Europe at short notice much more difficult administratively and could become prohibitively expensive.

The absence of mobility provisions for musicians is extremely disappointing given that the government provided repeated assurances to the music sector throughout 2020 that it understood the need for frictionless travel for UK musicians post Brexit and would be negotiating with the EU an ambitious agreement to achieve this objective.

The Government has stated that they have no immediate plans to change the provisions for short term creative work. However, the government has already provided assurances to other industries left out from the Brexit deal such as financial services, who have been promised a new regulatory framework in the coming months. Please will you ask the Government on my behalf to seek assurances that musicians and touring professionals will be supported post Brexit to prevent a hierarchy of service provision in the UK?

The way that instruments and equipment are transported has also changed. If I want to travel to the EU, I now need to purchase an ATA Carnets (international customs documents that cover the temporary movement of goods between countries). Official guidance states that procuring ATA Carnets is optional, however I risk my instruments or equipment being seized if I do not have one. ATA Carnets are valid for 12 months and cost starts at approximately £400 plus a security deposit. This is extremely expensive for me and many other musicians, especially when musician earn on average £20,000 per year and have had their incomes diminished during the pandemic. Alternatively, I can use a Duplicate List, which although is free is administratively very difficult.

I am also required to obtain a Musical Instrument Certificate (MIC) for instruments or accessories that contain CITES-protected materials (such as ivory, Brazilian rosewood, tortoiseshell). This includes many guitars, stringed instruments and pianos. The application form for a MIC is very confusing to complete as it is the same as for all other CITES-protected specifies (alive or dead). When travelling with a MIC, I will also need travel in and out of CITES-designated ports. This does not currently cover Eurostar, which is my preferred way to travel to the EU as airlines are notoriously problematic for larger instruments.

CITES permits are also required between Great Britain and the EU, and GB and Northern Ireland, with import and export checks all happening in Northern Ireland. However, there are limited routes for musicians traveling with instruments covered by CITES as we are only allowed to use one of the CITES-designated points of entry/exit in NI. These new administrative hurdles and additional costs completely threaten my ability to work in the EU. Please will you make representations on behalf to the Government so that they understand just how challenging it will be for UK musicians to work in the EU?

The Government has provided financial support to UK fisheries of £100 million to address the impact of lost quotas having left the EU – an industry which generated £1.4 billion per year to the UK economy. However similar support not been offered to the music industry, which contributes £5.8 billion to the UK economy and is part of a wider £111bn creative industry. Please will you ask the Government to provide a similar financial support package for touring musicians and other creative workers to mitigate against the loss of opportunity due to the lack of mobility provisions and extra costs in the form of ATA Carnets and CITES?

I hope you will seriously consider my request to help support musicians like myself and others across (insert constituency) to help musicians post Brexit during these extremely difficult times.

Yours sincerely,