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Music industry urges Government to make rapid progress and save touring in Europe

Today, peers in the House of Lords considered the impact of the new visa and work permit requirements for touring in Europe. The ISM and the MU welcomed the Government reiterating its pledge to find workable solutions to critical issues like mobility, but warned that the proposal for a cultural export office is a long-term measure.

The urgent challenges facing musicians can only be immediately solved if the UK Government negotiates a bespoke visa waiver agreement with the EU for the creative sector and enters bilateral discussions with key EU Member States to sort out work permit rules. Visa waiver agreements are common practice and the EU has entered into 28 of them with countries like Colombia, UAE, Tonga and St Lucia since 2009. Legal experts have advised they are both hugely beneficial for musicians and compatible with the Government’s manifesto commitments.

Responding to peers from across the political spectrum, Baroness Barran (Minister for Civil Society) said the Government were working to address issues around mobility by collecting evidence but offered no signs of immediate activity. This followed a DCMS Select Committee evidence session on February 16, where a senior civil servant said the UK would engage with key EU Member states in the coming weeks. The ISM and MU have called for the Government to provide an update on progress with these bilateral discussions.

ISM Chief Executive Deborah Annetts said:

‘I am delighted that so many Parliamentarians have spoken out about the problems facing musicians after Brexit, including around visas and work permits. For months, the Government has promised to try and find workable solutions to the mountain of costs and red tape that will prevent tours, particularly by emerging performers. With the music sector planning our return after coronavirus, it is time for proactive action to ensure that the barriers created by the pandemic are not replaced by new bureaucratic obstacles.'

MU General Secretary Horace Trubridge said:

‘‘We are now close to three months since the UK left the EU with no agreement to ensure the frictionless mobility of musicians as was repeatedly promised by this Government for the last three years. This situation has created alarm and despondency among musicians whose livelihoods have been destroyed by Covid-19 but were planning to resume their careers by performing live in EU member states later this year. We urgently need a progress report from Ministers on securing visa-free touring and bilateral agreements to reassure the music community that more is happening to remedy the situation beyond mere words.’

Save touring

The ISM and the MU have been holding high-level meetings with politicians and civil servants on this issue. Together, we are calling on the Government to:

  • Negotiate a bespoke visa waiver agreement with the EU that is separate to the trade deal exempting touring performers, creative teams and crews from needing to obtain a visa when seeking paid work.
  • Prioritise bilateral discussions with individual EU Member States that do not offer cultural exemptions for work permits, such as Spain, Italy, and Portugal, as well as those which are financially the most important to UK performers.
  • Publish guidance to help the performing arts sector navigate the different requirements for each European country. The ISM has already compiled a comprehensive overview of these rules, but now we need authoritative Government advice to provide reassurance across the touring supply chain.