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British govt hits back at “misleading” EU visa report

Authorities have rebuffed a newspaper report suggesting they rejected a 90-day visa-free period for artists, saying the UK's "door remains open" to proposals from the EU

By IQ on 11 Jan 2021

The MMF highlighted that home secretary Priti Patel said there would be change for touring artists

The MMF highlighted that home secretary Priti Patel said there would be change for touring artists

image © DFID (CC BY 2.0)

The British government has denied it rejected an offer from the EU to exempt performers from needing a visa for European tours, describing an article claiming as such in the Independent as “misleading speculation”.

The Independent piece, which was published yesterday (10 January), quotes an anonymous EU source who says the bloc’s officials offered the UK a 90-day visa-free period for performers – an offer they allege was knocked back by UK negotiators.

“It is usually in our agreements with third countries that [work] visas are not required for musicians,” the source, who is described as being “close” to the Brexit negotiations, says. “We tried to include it, but the UK said no.”

Again citing EU sources, the paper claims the UK did ask for a similar 30-day exemption for performers; it is understood this proposal would have been a broader 30-day exemption covering all “business travellers”.

The Independent story was met with anger in the UK live music community, which has been pushing for visa-free travel for touring artists since Britain voted to leave the EU in June 2016.

“Last February, the home secretary stood up in the House of Commons and claimed that the situation for British musicians touring Europe would be completely unchanged, and that touring routes would operate as they do now,” says Annabella Coldrick, CEO of the Music Managers Forum. “A year on and such assurances appear to be misplaced, and – if recent newspaper reports are true – as a result of intransigence on the part of the UK government.

“We need urgent clarity from ministers as to what is going on and an immediate commitment to resolve the situation”

“This is utter insanity. Music is at the heart of Britain’s national culture, and a sector where we are genuinely world beating. For the sake of our artists, our musicians and the tens of thousands of people who work in live music, we need urgent clarity from ministers as to what is going on and an immediate commitment to resolve the situation to avoid a serious impact on our ability to tour the EU post-Covid.”

Horace Trubridge, general secretary of the Musicians’ Union, comments: “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,” he adds.

Responding to the Independent article, a government spokesperson tells IQ: “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.

“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.”


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