Image Credit: Adi Goldstein

Relief at avoiding No Deal Brexit replaced by concern as reports say EU rejected UK government proposals for British musicians looking to tour in Europe.

We knew it was coming. Musicians and other performers were not included on the Brexit deal list of working professionals allowed to remain in the EU for more than 90 days without a visa, and work permits for touring Europe could now become standard for UK musicians. In response to criticism, the government passed the blame onto their EU counterparts, claiming it tried to bargain for a better deal for UK touring musicians after Brexit, but the EU turned down proposals.

90 days of visa-free travel may seem to be more than more than long enough for most UK musicians looking to tour, but there are strict rules on activities they can perform in the EU. Differing rules for work permits depending on the country in question could complicate matters further: France and Ireland, for example, allow 90 days free travel, whilst Spain, Italy and Denmark require permits.

Eleventh-hour attempts to debate visa-free travel in parliament before the Brexit deadline were dismissed by Conservative MPs who voted down a bid by the SNP for extra time to allow for debate. Labour had also sought an amendment to secure an agreement on touring, but the lack of time left no chance for debate.

Horace Trubridge, general secretary of the Musicians’ Union, said:

We now see that this deal does not address any of our concerns. In the short term, we urge the Government to add musicians to the list of ‘Independent Professionals’ at the earliest opportunity. In the longer term, we will be lobbying for a reciprocal arrangement with the EU that will allow musicians to work unimpeded.

Horace Trubridge, Musicians’ Union general secretary

A petition calling for the UK government to ‘Seek Europe-wide Visa-free work permit for Touring professionals and Artists’ has so far gained 222,000 signatures. The petition asks for visa-free travel throughout the 27 EU states for music touring purposes. The UK music industry has taken a battering over the past year, and the petition argues that even post-pandemic bands, musicians, freelancers and tour staff would find it impossible to tour without visa free travel. There are now additional practical problems such as requiring carnets, passports for professional equipment. Merchandise too requires a visa if it is to be temporarily exported into the EU for sale.

A government spokeswoman claimed:

The UK pushed for a more ambitious agreement with the EU on the temporary movement of business travellers, which would have covered musicians and others, but our proposals were rejected by the EU.

Separately, the Musicians’ Union is calling for a Musicians’ Passport so that UK musicians can continue working as normal in the EU, a proposal backed by numerous MPs.

And what about European music artists looking to perform in the UK? Well, the UK’s ‘points-based immigration system’ ends free movement, and EU musicians will now require visas to tour in the Post-Brexit country. So perhaps fair is fair. But with the huge loss of income suffered by many musicians worldwide since the pandemic began, the extra cost of visas and hidden charges may decide whether they can tour at all.