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“Back to the bad old days”: UK crews face Brexit backlash

With the ink barely dry on the deal between Britain and Brussels, some crews have already had a taste of the barriers that Brexit may bring

By Anna Grace on 12 Feb 2020

UK touring crews face Brexit backlash

image © Pixabay

Some British touring crews are reportedly being held up at European border crossings following the UK’s recent exit from the EU, despite the Brexit transition period running until the end of this year.

Touring in Europe was a concern for UK artists and crews as Brexit loomed, with industry experts repeatedly warning against costly visas and carnets, complicated bureaucratic procedures and lengthy border checks. According to multiple people affected, some of those concerns are already being realised – even though an 11-month transition, or implementation, period technically keeps the UK bound to the EU’s rules for the remainder of 2020.

Sound engineer and tour manager Jim Mitcham, who was recently stopped on the German-Dutch border for “passport and identity checks”, says it was made clear that border officials were “targeting British vehicles due to Brexit”.

“The transition period doesn’t mean waiting 11 months before making changes; the changes are being made now and have 11 months to settle in,” states Mitcham, who adds that “we are back to the bad old days.”

Another British tour manager cites similar grievances, saying his crew was stopped and held for six hours on the Italian border on the day after Britain left the EU. “It can only get worse,” the tour manager writes in a Facebook post. “It’s a sad day for the live music industry.”

The problems are not limited to road travel, either, with one musician describing issues encountered at Munich airport, where he was asked for proof of accommodation, onward travel and funds. According to the source, automated passport machines would no longer accept British passports at the airport.

“Everything is very up in the air at the moment,” Horace Trubridge, general secretary of the Musicians’ Union (MU), tells IQ. “The uncertainty is making people back off and a lot of tours are being put on ice.

“The idea of Europe now being difficult to get into is just horrifying”

“We need to establish a two-way agreement with the EU to allow musicians to easily visit and work in countries,” continues Trubridge, who states the MU is “very anxious” about what the end of the year may bring.

The MU, along with umbrella body UK Music, has been at the forefront of the push for a live music touring passport, which would allow musicians, their road crew and all their equipment to “go in and out of EU member states freely”.

The MU’s proposal would allocate the passport to musicians for a minimum of two years, provided they pass an application process. The passport scheme would be reciprocal, removing obstacles for European crews entering the UK, as well as for UK artists touring in the EU.

The MU are used to helping artists navigate the barriers imposed by stringent visa and border restrictions, having spent years advising musicians and their crews on how to get into the US.

“The idea of Europe now being difficult to get into is just horrifying,” says Trubridge. “I remember the days when you needed a carnet to get your equipment across borders – it was just a joke. We really don’t want to go back to those days.”

Expect further information on the new touring reality as the end of the implementation period approaches. For now, advice on how to tour in a post-Brexit world can be found on the Musicians’ Union and UK Music websites, as well as on the newly launched UK, Europe, Arts Work portal.


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