News: ISM calls on Government to ensure musicians can ‘deliver their services’ in the EU

The ISM, the UK’s professional body for musicians, has called on the UK government to take the necessary steps to ensure UK musicians can continue to work in the EU.

In the House of Commons last week, an amendment seeking to allow musicians to be able to tour without visas was defeated. This is hugely concerning given that just weeks ago assurances were given by the Government that they understood the need for frictionless travel for UK musicians post Brexit and would be negotiating reciprocal arrangements with the EU to achieve this objective.

What did the Government say?

Responding to a question in a debate in September 2020 on free movement of musicians, the Rt Hon Baroness Barran MBE (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)) responded that their intention was ‘to negotiate reciprocal arrangements which will facilitate businesses, including musicians and groups of musicians, to deliver their services within the EU’, which was later reemphasised. This was followed up in December with the assurance that the Government was seeking ‘reciprocal mobility arrangements with the EU’ with the view to possibly include ‘talented people’ such as musicians under ‘temporary entry for business purposes (Mode IV)’.

In a debate in the House of Lords on Wednesday 30 December 2020, Lord True stated that the ‘UK pushed for a more ambitious agreement with the EU on the temporary movement of business travellers’ that would have ‘covered musicians and others’, but the proposals were rejected. This is the first time the Government let it be known that they would not be able to make good on the assurances they had given the music sector on frictionless travel post Brexit. Therefore, we call on the Government to be fully transparent as to the nature of those negotiations on Mode IV and what steps they are now going to take to support the music sector post-Brexit.

Urging the Government to make good their assurances to the music sector, ISM Chief Executive Deborah Annetts said:


‘The ISM and wider music sector is grateful for the support for musicians and creatives shown in Parliament last week. However, the music sector feels badly let down by the Government. It is crucial that the Government listens to the concerns raised by MPs and members of the House of Lords and ensures that musicians and creatives can continue to travel and work freely in the EU – as they assured us just weeks ago.


From now, musicians will face a mountain of red tape which threatens the future viability of working in the EU. Carnets, depending on instrument, cost approximately £400-2000 with a security fee of up to 40% of the value of the instrument. Very few musicians will be able to afford this extra cost which can run to thousands of pounds, harming not only the value of the music industry (which generates £5.8bn a year to the UK economy) but also individual livelihoods.

It remains to be seen whether there are other business communities outside of the cultural sector who have found themselves not to be covered by Mode IV after being confident they would be. We call on the Government to take the necessary steps to ensure that musicians can continue to work in the EU without visas, making good on the many assurances made just a matter of weeks ago. We also call on the Government to be fully transparent as to the nature of those negotiations on Mode IV and what steps they are now going to take to support musicians.'


Notes for editors

In the trade agreement, there is currently an absence of visa-free travel provisions for working musicians, as part of the agreements for business visitors and independent professionals in the service industries (Annex SERVIN-3, Annex SERVIN-4). This means that UK musicians will be considered as ‘third country nationals’, meaning that they will have to adhere to the immigration rules of each EU member state in which they work. This is contrary to assurances given by the Government and will have huge implications for UK musicians working and touring in the EU.

A parliament petition calling for a Europe-wide visa-free work permit for touring professionals and artists has generated over 220,000 signatures.

About the ISM

The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) is the UK's professional body for musicians and a nationally-recognised subject association for music. Since 1882, we have been dedicated to promoting the importance of music and protecting the rights of those working in the music profession. We support over 10,500 musicians across the UK and Ireland with our unrivalled legal advice and representation, comprehensive insurance and specialist services. Our members come from all areas of the music profession and from a wide variety of genres and musical backgrounds. We campaign tirelessly in support of musicians’ rights, music education and the profession as a whole. We are a financially independent not-for-profit organisation with no political affiliation. This independence allows us the freedom to campaign on any issue affecting musicians.

For more information, please contact [email protected] / [email protected]

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