The row about touring in the EU post-Brexit isn’t going away.
Following a report that the UK rejected an EU offer of 90-day visa-free touring in members states that would have required a reciprocal deal, the British government has denied the anonymous claim from Brussels. That 90-day arrangement would, of course, have been welcomed by UK musicians and artists, along with their road crew and technical staff on tours.
Concerns were raised last month when the EU trade deal was announced without clear provisions for artists and musicians to travel without friction and costly bureacuracy, which even the pro-Brexit UK minister responsible for music had said was essential.
While the deal allows UK citizens to make visa-free business trips to the EU for 90 days, there are restrictions on the activities they can perform. However, a review clause in the deal refers to the potential to revisit the list of permitted activities for short-term business visitors at a future time.
Assuming they can avoid any restrictions on touring and promotion, most artists and musicians would likely be able to work within that 90-day timeframe for their tour plans. But the system of visas and carnets across the EU is complicated by different rules in each member state for so-called ‘third-country nationals’. Countries such as France and Ireland allow performers to work for up to 90 days, while others including Spain, Italy and Denmark require permits.
According to AIM, a touring party from the UK working in the EU faces more administrative costs and barriers than others from ‘third countries’.
Trade bodies reacted furiously to the reports at the weekend that the UK turned down the EU offer. But now the government has responded with a robust denial (although without spelling out the full nature of its offer to the EU during the trade deal talks).
“It is not true we turned down a bespoke arrangement from the EU to allow musicians to work and perform in member states,” said a government spokesperson. “The UK government has and always will support ambitious arrangements for performers and artists to be able to work and tour across Europe.
“As suggested by the creative arts sector, the UK proposed to capture the work done by musicians, artists and entertainers, and their accompanying staff, through the list of permitted activities for short-term business visitors. This would have allowed musicians and support staff to travel and perform in the UK and the EU more easily, without needing work-permits.
“Unfortunately the EU repeatedly refused the proposals we made on behalf of the UK's creative arts sector. We are clear that our door remains open should the EU change its mind. We will endeavour to make it as straightforward as possible for UK artists to travel and work in the EU.”
The only way that both sides can recover from this position is to announce a deal acceptable to working musicians
Amid accusations on both sides, trade bodies are urging the EU and UK to reach an agreement.
Horace Trubridge, Musicians’ Union general secretary, said: “There is a stalemate at present, with the UK government saying they did not block the offer and the EU maintaining that they did. It would appear the only way that both sides can recover from this position is to announce a deal acceptable to working musicians.”
AIM – which represents smaller indie artists who would be most affected by added costs and bureaucracy – is calling for the two sides to rapidly return to the negotiating table so that, as touring restarts post-Covid, the situation is resolved.
AIM is in regular contact with Department for Digital, Culture Media & Sport (DCMS) and is currently liaising with officials to try to guide the situation towards a more advantageous solution. Music Week understands that the government will continue its dialogue with the music sector to help bring about easier touring in the EU post-Brexit.
At the same time, IMPALA is liaising with the European Commission in Brussels.
There are concerns about Home Secretary Priti Patel’s immigration rules limiting visa-free visits to under 30 days, which could affect any reciprocal deal.
But the government has indicated that artists who are EU nationals do not require a visa to give performances, take part in competitions or take part in promotional activities for up to six months. However, payments must not be from a UK source, a rule which may be difficult to work around for smaller and medium-sized artists.
Outside of the visitor route for EU musicians, the Tier 5 (Creative and Sporting) visa allows creative workers and their entourage to come to the UK for up to two years, although various costs are involved, such as an extra £800 for a super priority service on top of the standard payments.
AIM will now work together with DCMS to produce a country-by-country guide of accurate and practical information to help musicians and crews who travel, work and tour around Europe. This will sit alongside AIM’s own targeted Brexit FAQ available to its members covering the full range of advice and new rules and regulations on operating a music business in the post-Brexit landscape.
Paul Pacifico, CEO of AIM, said: “Much about Brexit is not as the UK music industry wanted and there are, inevitably, complexities to the UK’s new relationship with the EU. However, it is essential that we focus on real issues where they arise, such as work permits, VAT and data, and work with government and EU counterparts to fix them. We must remain disciplined and focused to ensure the music industry makes the most of every opportunity in spite of these problematic areas whilst we continue to push for a better outcome.”
We must remain disciplined and focused to ensure the music industry makes the most of every opportunity in spite of these problematic areas whilst we continue to push for a better outcome
Helen Smith, executive chair, IMPALA, said: “IMPALA has asked the EU what happened here, emphasising that a proper and straightforward visa arrangement going both ways is crucial for our members in both the UK and EU countries. Our main focus is to help table solutions that take us forward. We are hopeful that it will still be possible on issues like this where here is a distinct shared interest.”
Andy Corrigan, founder, Viva La Visa, said: “It’s sad that the UK government and the EU appear not to have taken the opportunity to negotiate a deal for touring musicians and the creative sector in general, and have left us to try and work out for ourselves how the regulations impact on touring.
“The creative industries are resilient and resourceful and will find ways around whatever obstacles are put in our way, but it is often the smaller companies and artists who suffer most.”