UK government denies rejecting EU offer of visa-free travel for musicians

© Chris Cooper

A government spokesperson has said that claims of the UK government rejecting an EU offer are “not true”.

Last month, an online petition calling for Europe-wide visa-free work permits for UK musicians gathered momentum. Having gained over 100,000 signatures, Parliament must now consider the petition for debate. The government has previously said that Brussels rejected the idea of visa-free travel for UK artists. However, last week a report by The Independent stated otherwise, claiming that the UK government has rejected a ‘standard’ proposal of visa-free travel of up to 90 days, agreeing instead to a proposal of a 30-day permit. The Independent reported that the government has rejected the EU’s offer due to their insistence that EU artists must obtain a work visa to tour the UK, as part of Priti Patel’s crackdown on immigration.

Today (12 January), NME has reported that a spokesperson has denied these claims. A spokesperson said, “It is not true we turned down a bespoke arrangement from the EU to allow musicians to work and perform in member states. The UK government has and always will support ambitious arrangements for performers and artists to be able to work and tour across Europe.” [sic]

They added, “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.”

Furthermore, the Brexit deal could impact travel to the US. Mark Davyd, owner of the UK Music Venue Trust, told NME: “There will be a lot of ripple-out effects of Brexit that I don’t think we’ve really understood yet. For example, you need a US P1 visa to tour in America. One of the criteria is your international reputation. My question would be, ‘How do you acquire an international reputation as British grassroots band if you don’t have access to play internationally?’ I’ve filled out dozens of those forms over the years, and the evidence we send to US officials is a package of all the touring done in Europe. You take that out, then how do you get the reputation?”

Thom Yorke recently criticised the UK government, calling them “spineless”. In response to The Independent’s report, Horace Trubridge, General Secretary of the Musicians’ Union said, “With the British music business having been devastated by Covid-19 and with no end in sight to the black hole of cancelled concerts, tours, festivals and regular gigs that is the very bedrock of our world-class industry, the news, if true, that our own elected representatives chose to turn down such an offer is nigh-on unbelievable.”

“Negotiators on both sides should continue to acknowledge the importance of cultural life and its huge social and economic value by finding an acceptable solution.”

In January 2020, Culture Minister Nigel Adams said, “It’s absolutely essential that free movement for artists is protected post-2020.”

“Touring is absolutely the lifeblood of the industry and we recognise the importance of the continued ease of movement of musicians, equipment and merchandise once we’ve left the EU. Visa rules for artists performing in the EU will not change until the implementation period ends in December 2020.”

(via NME)