Michael Dugher warns that extra costs and “red tape at borders” caused by a no-deal Brexit will harm the £1bn-a-year live music industry
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This government risks being remembered as the people who “killed international touring for live music” in the UK, the DCMS Committee heard today
By Jon Chapple on 10 Jun 2021
Industry professionals and members of parliament tore into the British government this afternoon (10 June) over failings in the Brexit deal that will lead to barriers to touring when live music restarts.
As detailed in the latest IQ Magazine, many UK firms have been forced to relocate to the continent to get around post-Brexit restrictions on the movement of goods, with experts warning that starting European tours in the UK is no longer possible under the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) – while UK artists are concerned about the lack of provision for visa-free travel under the TCA, and that promised bilateral deals with individual EU nations have failed to appear.
Much of the blame for the lack of progress was directed towards Brexit negotiator-turned-government minister David Frost, who no-showed today’s event, a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee oral evidence session featuring contributions from Marshall Arts’ Craig Stanley, the head of the LIVE Touring group, and Noel McClean from performing arts union Bectu.
Stanley opened with a statement he had been asked to read by Elton John, which is reproduced in full here. In it, Sir Elton says the music industry is facing a “looming catastrophe” which the government “seems unable or unwilling to fix”. “The situation is already critical and touring musicians, crews and support staff are already losing their livelihood,” he adds.
“The government either doesn’t get it, or just doesn’t care”
McClean said Lord Frost’s no-show had to be viewed “in the round, with everything else that has been promised and has not happened over the course of the months since the TCA was agreed. Various ministers have promised that they’re working very hard, the prime minister has said that he’s working flat out to fix this issue… We’ve had these repeated promises that they are working on it and we will see the results very, very soon. [So Frost’s non-appearance] just adds to the reasonable feeling our members have that the government either doesn’t get it, or just doesn’t care.”
Committee chair Julian Knight observed that while the TCA avoided a no-deal UK exit from the EU, the industries represented in the session had effectively “enjoyed a no-deal Brexit – there’s been a deal, but the service sector, and the movement of people, has been left out of that deal.”
Stanley described how the issues presented by the TCA go far beyond the artist, affecting a supply chain of thousands of people. “So often the question is framed as ‘how will this affect musicians?’” he said, “but I’m equally concerned about all the behind-the-scenes stuff. For every musician on stage, there are ten, 20, 50, even 100 people who have got him or her there.”
On the artist side, “There is a whole brain drain of emerging talent going away from the industry which will not have the ability to grow and nurture,” he added. “People said that the Beatles had to go to Hamburg to become a band, and that’s still true today.”
“There’s no getting around it. No trucks means no tours”
Stanley said that despite the government’s insistence, there is “no evidence” it is actively pursuing bilateral agreements outside the TCA. “Two of my colleagues actually attended the Spanish consulate this morning to talk about the issues particularly with Spain. The gentleman they saw there acknowledged there had been some conversation, but not in any detail,” he explained. “So we’re very sad that after five months there’s been no progress made on a bilateral basis to do with work arrangements or cabotage.”
Asked by Alex Davies-Jones MP if there are any solutions to either of the issues that are entirely the UK government’s gift to give, Stanley said concert hauliers could be given an ‘easement’ on their current limit of three stops in Europe of the kind currently enjoyed by car transporters, who are able to deliver cars to multiple dealerships.“We believe that it’s entirely the secretary of state [Frost’s] gift to do that,” he explained. “And we cannot understand why he has not.”
“The solution to the problem is to go back and get a cultural exemption for the movement of trucks, otherwise touring will stop,” Stanley added. “I wouldn’t want Lord Frost to be remembered as the person who killed international touring for live music, but that is what he is facing at the moment. There’s no getting around it. No trucks means no tours.”
The full evidence session can be watched back on demand at Parliamentlive.tv.
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