Colin Greenwood on post-Brexit touring: “It is time for the UK government to admit it didn’t do enough”


Radiohead’s Colin Greenwood is the latest UK artist to express concerns surrounding the post-Brexit deal for musicians, touring artists and crew.

Greenwood’s comments were made in a new piece published by the Guardian earlier today (8 February). They follow recent comments made by fellow Radiohead band member Thom Yorke, who called the UK government “spineless” for its rejection of the EU’s offer to waive visas for British artists.

“What will playing in Europe be like now, after Brexit?” Greenwood (pictured second right) asks in the piece. “I spoke to several old friends who’ve had years of experience planning Radiohead tours. Adrian, our touring accountant, said it will be more clunky and expensive.”

“Before Brexit, a carnet (a list of goods going in and out of the country) was just needed for Norway and Switzerland. Now it would be more like playing South America, where each country has its systems for dealing with ‘third countries’ like us. Adrian said a £10,000 guitar would need a carnet that would cost about £650 plus VAT. The costs of travel and accommodation are already high, and the extra paperwork and expenses would rise quickly for a touring orchestra.”

Greenwood also reflects on Radiohead’s early years and time spent playing “small clubs and early festival slots across Sweden, the Netherlands and France in a crappy old bus that smelled of diesel and had sad grey curtains.” He said, “It was brilliant fun, as friends working together to get our music across to different cultures.”

Elsewhere he writes: “Like Hamburg to the Beatles, Europe was crucial to our growth as a band. It allowed us to see ourselves untethered from our UK roots and to imagine a life in music that could reach audiences everywhere. We made enduring friendships, toured with musicians from Europe, and dived deep into its clubs, festivals, record stores and music labels.” Greenwood also states that as a “musician who wants to jump on the Eurostar and go play, my heart sinks at all the new costs and kerfuffle – and I’m lucky enough to afford it.” 

The letter ends with a call to the UK government to “admit it didn’t do enough for the creative industries during the Brexit negotiations and look to renegotiate on the provision for touring in Europe.”

“My country’s music is great because it scorns borders and boundaries; it is a great patriotic source, a force of confidence, joy and shared passions,” writes Greenwood. “I am proud of my country and all the music it has exchanged with the world, and I am sure that pride is felt across all ages and cultures in the UK. It is the antithesis of the culturally pinched nationalism that is Brexit, and its diminishment would deprive us all.

Radiohead were among the 100-plus signatories of a recent open letter published by The Times and organised by the Liberal Democrats and the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM). The letter criticised the post-Brexit UK-EU negotiations for musicians and called for action from the UK government. It was also signed by the likes of Brian Eno, Bicep, Jayda G, Hot Chip, Ross From Friends, Sting, Sir Elton John, Liam Gallagher and Glastonbury’s Micheal and Emily Eavis and more.

UK MPs are set to debate the issue in Parliament later today (8 February) after more than 280,000 individuals signed a recent petition asking for the government to negotiate further with the EU on the matter.