Group of multi-party MPs calls for urgent action on post-Brexit touring bureaucracy
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By Chris Cooke | Posted on Thursday, November 4, 2021
The all-party parliamentary group on music yesterday demanded “urgent action” from the UK government to address the crisis facing UK musicians and teams planning to tour Europe in the wake of the Brexit mess. The group of multi-party MPs also announced an investigation into the costly obstacles and delays that performers now face when touring Europe, and their impact on the music community, and in particular emerging talent.
When the UK government released its last-minute post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union at the very end of 2020, it was clear that there was no provision in place to ensure musicians and the team Brits could tour Europe without new visas, permits or diary requirements, although the music community has been assured by government Brexiters that such provisions would be included.
This means that as musicians and crews on tour in the European Union, they are subject to different rules in different countries. In some cases it doesn’t make a big difference, but in others there is new bureaucracy to deal with resulting in further delays and costs. For many artists, whose tours operate on tight profit margins, this extra bureaucracy makes the touring business unsustainable.
The government initially blamed the EU for the lack of touring provisions in the deal. Then ministers started to admit that this was a big problem that needed to be tackled. Then Prime Minister “Boris” Johnson told Parliament in March that he was “passionate” about solving this problem, that’s when the music community knew it was really. fucked up.
The PM also said the government was working “hard” to negotiate deals with the various EU countries where Brexit had created a new bureaucracy for touring artists, and the Brexit negotiator, David Frost led the charge.
Then of course it all fucking happened. Well, the government started issuing statements about countries in the EU where there was no new post-Brexit bureaucracy to navigate, presenting them as if they were victories of sorts.
And Frost basically told Parliament’s select culture committee – which he eventually agreed to meet – that it wasn’t really his problem. And that signing the EU proposals that would have allowed performers to continue touring Europe hassle-free would have been contrary to the fuck strangers agenda through which Johnson came to power.
A program that was fully and passionately embraced by, well, 26.5% of the British population in the 2016 European referendum and 21% of the population in the 2019 general election.
It is now November, and the six-month handy buffer created by the COVID-caused tour halt has ended. And yet, well, here we are. Everything is still screwed up. Hence the letter from the APP On Music to Johnson.
“At an APPG On Music meeting that I chaired last week,” wrote MP David Warburton, “it was made clear to me that while the clarifications issued by the Digital Department, the culture, media and sports confirm general visa principle free work in 20 EU countries was welcome, there are still barriers and not enough clarity for musicians looking to tour the EU, especially emerging artists ”.
Noting the economic and cultural impact of the UK music industry – and Johnson’s pledge to address these issues in March – the letter calls on the Prime Minister to urgently commit to three things.
First, “practical unilateral steps to improve the situation, such as setting up a tailor-made music export office to support UK artists seeking to perform abroad”. Then “to intensify bilateral negotiations with states like Spain which prohibit free tours for work permits.” And finally “seek to forge an agreement at EU level exempting cultural visits from the administrative formalities designed to cover other areas of activity such as road transport and formal immigration”.
Commenting on the letter yesterday, Warburton added: “The musicians and the team face a huge and serious problem when it comes to visiting the EU that is not going to go away. Our multi-stakeholder group has written to the Prime Minister asking him to take urgent action to remove these visa and travel barriers that threaten the success of the UK music industry, especially emerging artists. We need the government to step up negotiations with countries like Spain where expensive visas are still in place and to seek quick solutions to visa and transport issues facing musicians and the team ”.
As part of their inquiry into the impact of post-Brexit bureaucracy, MEPs want to hear from musicians and people from the music industry. Of particular interest is the specific impact of visa, permit and logbook requirements and cabotage rules, as well as the effect of all of this on the music industry in general and emerging talent in particular. Members are also interested in knowing the possible solutions.
Another APPG member who has already spoken on this issue is MP Harriet Harman, who praised the investigation, saying: “This is a very important initiative. There is a deep recognition from all parties in the House of Commons of the importance of music to the cultural and economic life of the UK, and of the danger caused by the restrictions placed on UK musicians touring the EU . Livelihoods and careers are under threat and musicians need government action now. This inquiry is an opportunity to give the government an ultimatum that it must resolve this problem.
Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, boss of cross-industry lobby group UK Music, also welcomed both the letter and the investigation. “This is an extremely welcome move from MEPs from all political walks of life who are as keen as we are to overcome the obstacles faced by musicians and touring teams in the EU,” he said. yesterday. “The additional costs and red tape mean that some artists lose their jobs and that some tours, especially those of emerging musicians, are not viable at the moment. We need urgent government action to remove the obstacles facing musicians and teams, including a transitional support package of financial aid and new measures to encourage exports ”.
It remains to be seen how useful the APPG campaign and survey is. Although, of course, we all know that if you really want some action from Johnson’s government, the best way is to pay a lot of money to one of the Prime Minister’s best friends in Westminster. I can’t help but think that this might be a quicker fix.