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UK govt pledges free movement for artists ahead of key Brexit vote

UK Music receives assurances from Government as the Commons prepare to vote on Theresa May’s latest deal later today

By Anna Grace on 15 Jan 2019

UK govt pledges free movement for artists ahead of key Brexit vote

The House of Commons will vote on May's latest Brexit deal tonight

image © Crown copyright

Ahead of a critical Commons vote tonight, industry umbrella organisation UK Music has received assurances from the Government regarding the impact on touring artists around post-Brexit immigration and customs restrictions.

The letter from the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) responds to concerns raised by UK Music chief executive Michael Dugher surrounding freedom of movement of people and goods and copyright law post-Brexit.

“Music is one of the UK’s greatest success stories, producing talent that is recognised the world over,” writes junior DExEU minister Robin Walker MP. “The UK’s decision to leave the EU will not change that and neither will it diminish our outstanding creativity.”

The loss of freedom of movement would present many problems for the music industry, as “costly bureaucracy will make touring simply unviable for very many artists,” says Dugher. UK Music has repeatedly called for the introduction of a ‘touring passport’, which would act as a waiver for visas and permits.

The DExEU letter states that artists will not face the effects of migration restrictions immediately, citing the implementation period from 30 March 2019 to 31 December 2020, during which “UK nationals, including musicians, will be able to travel and work in the EU as they do now.”

“Music is one of the UK’s greatest success stories, producing talent that is recognised the world over”

Beyond the transition period, the safeguarding of touring musicians will be a priority, particularly in striking long-term reciprocal mobility arrangements with the EU. “We will seek a specific co-operative accord with the EU which will make specific provision for mobility to allow UK musicians to perform in the EU, and EU musicians to perform in the UK,” the letter states.

UK Music’s Dugher voiced widespread concern that any tariffs, quotas or restrictions on transporting musical instruments and other equipment across borders would serve as a huge obstacle to touring artists. Responding, the letter addresses “the EU and the UK’s commitment to a free trade area”, as well as offering assurance that the Government “recognises that the temporary movement of goods and equipment is a priority for music cultural and creative sectors.”

Many music industry figures are deeply concerned by the potential threat Brexit poses to the UK music industry, which contributes £4.5 billion a year to the UK economy. The governmental response may serve to assuage some industry doubts, yet many questions – including what happens post-2020 if both parties fail to strike a deal on freedom of movement – remain unanswered ahead of the crunch Commons vote this evening.

Read the Government’s full response here.


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