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UK stars weigh in as visa petition reaches parliament

Colin Greenwood, bassist for Radiohead, has become the latest high-profile British artist to make the case for free movement for musicians in Europe, arguing in an article in the Guardian today that the UK government must act to eliminate red tape on touring.

The piece, titled ‘European touring made Radiohead the band we are. Brexit must not destroy it’, follows a similarly critical piece by Sir Elton John in the same paper on Sunday (7 February) – in which John contrasts his early career, playing Hamburg and Paris and touring Europe, with the “visas, work permits and equipment carnets” which could now be required by emerging British artists.

The Guardian op-eds – along with a new campaign, Carry on Touring, which also launches today – are the latest twist in the ongoing saga over musicians’ access to continental Europe post-Brexit, which has seen the UK and EU blame each other for the lack of a dedicated arrangement for touring artists following Britain’s exit from the bloc last month.

Spearheaded by Gill Morris of DevoConnect, with help from Ian Smith of Frusion and UKE Arts Work, Carry on Touring aims to force the British government back to the negotiating table to secure EU-wide free movement for touring artists and professionals. The campaign is supporting a petition for visa-free travel by freelancer Tim Brennan, which will be debated in parliament today after reaching nearly 300,000 signatures.

The parliamentary session takes place between 16.30 and 18.30 GMT and can be watched live at Parliamentlive.tv.

“Freelancers and touring professionals desperately need MPs and the government to fight our corner”

“Support for my petition has been phenomenal,” says Brennan, whose petition has won the support of a number of members of parliament, as well as Horace Trubridge of the Musicians’ Union, Parklife’s Sacha Lord and artists Fish (Marillion) and Eliza Carthy. “Freelancers and touring professionals like myself desperately need MPs and the government to fight our corner and renegotiate the current Brexit deal for this industry.

“This is an issue that has a huge impact on my life and my ability to earn and pay tax through my work in an industry that brings pleasure to millions of people.”

Following today’s parliamentary hearing, Carry on Touring will send a letter to the prime minister, Boris Johnson, urging him to seek an amendment or exemption for touring artists.

At press time, there are at least 14 European countries – including major markets like France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland – where free, short-term entry is guaranteed for touring musicians and their crew, according to a new guide published by umbrella body LIVE. Only Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria and Croatia definitively require a work or temporary stay visa for UK artists.


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