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UK MPs announce inquiry into EU touring obstacles

The UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music (APPG) has announced a cross-party inquiry into the barriers facing musicians touring the EU

The inquiry will focus on visas and work permits, carnets and CITES (instrument manufacturing materials), cabotage (transport issues), effect on the UK music industry, effect on emerging artists, and potential solutions.

MPs are keen to hear from those impacted ahead of the first evidence session later this month.

“This is a hugely welcome move by MPs from across the political divide who are as keen as we are to overcome the barriers facing musicians and crew touring the EU,” says UK Music CEO Jamie Njoku-Goodwin.

“The extra costs and red tape mean some artists are losing work and some tours, particularly those by emerging musicians, are not viable at the moment.

“We need urgent government action to break down the barriers facing musicians and crew including a transitional support package of financial aid and further steps to encourage exports.”

As part of its investigation, the group is calling for evidence on the impact the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) – the UK/EU trade deal signed following the UK’s departure from the EU – has had on UK music workers and companies looking to tour and work short-term in EU member states.

Musicians and crew are facing an enormous and grave problem when it comes to touring the EU that is not going to go away

UK musicians and performers can presently enjoy visa-free short-term touring in 20 of the bloc’s 27 nations, following conversations between Britain and individual European Union countries.

The governments of Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden have all confirmed that British artists will not need a visa or work permit when entering those countries to undertake “short-term” tours.

Still absent from the list, however, are major touring markets such as Spain and Portugal, as well as Greece, Croatia, Malta, Cyprus and Bulgaria.

The APPG has written to prime minister Boris Johnson to demand “urgent action” over the current deadlock, and is calling for a meeting to discuss ways of overcoming obstacles around visas and transport red tape. 

“Musicians and crew are facing an enormous and grave problem when it comes to touring the EU that is not going to go away,” says APPG chair, Conservative MP David Warburton. “Our cross-party group has written to the prime minister to ask him to take urgent action to clear these visa and travel barriers that threaten the success of the UK music industry, particularly emerging artists.

“We need the government to ramp up negotiations with nations like Spain where costly visas are still in place and to look for swift solutions to both the visa and transport issues facing musicians and crew.”

The APPG has voiced its support for artist-led music industry campaign #LetTheMusicMove, which launched in June and is pushing for a reduction in the costs and red tape which will face UK musicians and businesses when touring mainland Europe.

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Cross-party support grows for agent of change in UK

Parliamentary support is mounting for a new law in the UK to protect music venues, with two influential MPs – former culture minister Ed Vaizey and the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on music, David Warburton – now having endorsed the proposal.

Industry umbrella group UK Music is spearheading the campaign to have the agent-of-change principle, which would force property developers to take into account the impact of any new scheme on preexisting businesses, such as music venues, before going ahead with their plans, enshrined in law. That could mean, for example, the developer of new flats taking responsibility for soundproofing to avoid the risk of new neighbours complaining about noise from a existing venue.

The proposals are being brought forward at Westminster by Labour MP and former government minister John Spellar, who announced his support for the proposed legislation at Venues Day last month.

As of last May, agent of change is already included in planning guidance in England, but is not compulsory. The proposed new law would place a burden on the developer to ensure solutions are in place to mitigate the potential impact of their scheme on existing businesses across the entire United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

“It’s now time to make a change and stand up for common sense”

He will table his proposed new law next month, with a debate in the House of Commons to follow early next year. Culture secretary Karen Bradley has indicated the government would be willing to support Spellar’s bill, telling him in a recent parliamentary session that her office is already “working with the Department for Communities and Local Government to look at the proposition that has been put forward.”

Announcing his support, Vaizey comments: “In order for our creative industries to continue to flourish, it is essential that we do all we can to protect our country’s brilliant grassroots venues. These venues are the lifeblood of the UK music scene, a source of immense pride for communities and a springboard for many artists’ success. Adopting agent of change into existing planning laws is therefore an important step in safeguarding the future of these vital platforms.”

Warburton, a former composer, adds: “Putting the agent-of-change principle firmly into law is simple common sense. Any new development, whether it’s a residential project near a music venue or a music venue opening next to properties, should be responsible for the costs of protecting against the noise – because they’re the ones making the change to the environment.

“It’s crazy that you can build right next door to a music venue and then demand they pay for the soundproofing you need. A huge number of popular venues are facing closure because the law just isn’t working fairly – so it’s now time to make a change and stand up for common sense.”


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