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Prime Minister promises to fix Brexit crisis for creative industries

Yesterday, the Prime Minister gave evidence to MPs and said the Government was working to find a solution to mobility issues around visas, work permits and moving goods between the UK and EU.

When questioned by the Liaison Committee of MPs, Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised the creative industries and said that challenges around touring and cultural exports ‘must get ironed out’ as part of ‘a two way street’ with the EU. Johnson also said that the Government was working ‘flat out’ in bilateral conversations with EU member states. This is crucial for securing visa-free touring and work permit exemptions for musicians and other creative professionals.

These comments followed questions from Julian Knight MP, Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee who also asked about the challenges with the return of live performance, particularly related to COVID cancellation insurance. In response, the Prime Minister praised the work of his Government colleagues in supporting the return of the sector.

ISM Chief Executive Deborah Annetts said:

‘The Prime Minister’s commitment to fixing the crisis for the creative industries is fantastic news for a sector facing a mountain of red tape and huge new costs to tour in Europe. It is extremely encouraging that the Prime Minister is working ‘flat out’ with individual EU member states to address issues with visas, work permits and moving goods.

‘With musicians unable to work for most of the past year and now finding it virtually impossible to work in Europe, we urgently need the Prime Minister to deliver on these commitments and sort this mess out. This can only be achieved by negotiating a bespoke visa waiver agreement with the EU and bilateral deals on work permits with key EU Member States. With the sector now looking beyond the pandemic, UK musicians are already losing work so negotiating a solution cannot be delayed any further.‘

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.