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ISM’s Deborah Annetts gives evidence in support of musicians facing an extraordinary crisis

On Tuesday (16 February), ISM’s Chief Executive, Deborah Annetts gave evidence to the House of Commons DCMS Select Committee on the impact of EU visa and work permit arrangements for creative workers. Speaking alongside Lyndsay Duthie from the Production Guild of Great Britain and Paule Constable, Lighting Designer and Freelancers Make Theatre Work campaign, the session received widespread media coverage from across the UK as calls continue to grow to resolve frictionless work travel for musicians.

The hearing was a valuable opportunity to demonstrate to Government the adverse impacts of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) on musicians and touring professionals. Speaking to the committee of MPs, Deborah and the panel provided personal testimonies from across the music industry, a great many of whom relied on work in the EU and now face a crisis of livelihood.

Deborah Annetts explains why musicians now face an extraordinary crisis

The ISM called for a bespoke visa waiver agreement with the EU that is separate to the trade deal exempting touring performers and creative teams from needing to obtain a visa for up to 90 days in a 180-day period when seeking paid work. This solution has been echoed by the wider music sector including the Musicians Union, and would solve one key area of bureaucracy and red tape facing the creative workforce.

Deborah stated that given the domestic situation for EU Member States may change over time, an EU wide visa regime for paid work would untangle the patchwork of rules and add a greater level of certainty for the future. This would also send a strong message that the UK Government is doing everything it can to protect our world leading creative and cultural sector at a time when it needs it the most.

Deborah Annetts speaks to MPs about the challenges musicians now face

MPs listened to the panel call on the Government to show leadership in the comings weeks to urgently resolve the huge range of issues facing musicians. Deborah reiterated that a blame game would do little to fix the damage for both the EU and UK music sectors.

It became clear during the session that the TCA is having a disproportionate impact on young and emerging talent. The added costs and paperwork associated with visas and work permits will hugely affect the next generation of musicians and creative professionals whose career development relies on work in the EU. This is on top of the additional costs for purchasing an ATA Carnet when transporting instruments and equipment (read our guide for more info), and the huge logistical problems around haulage limitations.

Deborah Annetts explains why young talent are impacted by Brexit

As well as a visa waiver agreement, Deborah spoke about the urgent need to address work permits for musicians seeking short term engagements in the EU. To achieve this, the ISM called on the Government to enter bilateral discussions with the individual EU Member States that do not currently offer cultural exemptions for work permits, such as Spain, Italy, and Portugal.

Speaking on behalf of the Government, Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage stated that DCMS are doing everything they possibly can to find a solution. A senior DCMS official later confirmed that as it stands, these discussions were not yet underway, but it is the government’s ambition to start engaging with key EU member states in the coming weeks to address issues regarding work permits.

DCMS also confirmed that musicians travelling with portable musical instruments between the UK and the EU will not be subject to costly customs rules in the form of formal declaration or an ATA Carnet and that guidance will be available as soon as possible. This important clarification was welcomed by the music sector. However, it is not clear whether the same rules apply to non-professional musicians and ATA Carnets are required when musical instruments are transported by truck or cargo.

The ISM welcomed the Government’s firm commitment during the evidence session to save touring in Europe. We understand that this commitment extends across the whole of Whitehall. We now need the same willingness from the EU so that both sides can come together to find workable solutions to the mountain of costs and red tape. The ISM is ready to expand our ongoing activities to support the UK Government so that close cultural collaboration can continue after Brexit.