Brexit negotiator-turned-Cabinet Office minister Lord Frost has said artists, such as Elton John, should help Government persuade the EU to revise its post-Brexit visa restrictions that add considerable cost and inconvenience for touring acts.

Speaking at a DCMS Select Committee evidence session yesterday, 29 June, having pulled out at the last minute prior to a previous meeting on the same issue on 10 June, Frost called on artists and their representatives to help drive changes by using their relationships within the EU to “encourage those governments to be less restrictive”.

“I said that to Elton John and I will say it to others,” Frost told the committee of MPs. “We need that sort of help and support, and I’m convinced it would make a big difference to help improve the situation.”

Elton John has been a vociferous campaigner for changes to the current EU touring restrictions, with cabotage and visa rules having created significant practical and financial barriers to British creatives, crews and vehicles working in the EU.

In an interview with the Observer published on 27 June, Elton John criticised the Government’s “philistine” failure to achieve an agreement with the EU for touring performers, their crew and equipment.

He said, “I’m livid about what the Government did when Brexit happened. They made no provision for the entertainment business, and not just for musicians, actors and film directors, but for the crews, the dancers, the people who earn a living by going to Europe.

“We’ve been talking to Lord Strasburger about it, and we’ve been talking to Lord Frost, but we didn’t really get anywhere with him. It’s a nightmare. To young people just starting a career, it’s crucifying.”

At yesterday’s meeting Frost appeared to make light of the situation. He said, “I can’t help noticing that [Elton John’s] first hits were before the UK even became a member of the European Union so I think there is probably more at play here than pure rules within the then European Community.”

Frost said musicians could work visa-free, with time restrictions, in 17 EU countries. He suggested the DCMS was negotiating with seven other countries to relax visa requirements.

Organisers of the #LetTheMusicMove campaign pushing for action to remove EU touring red tape, said many of the more than 1,000 artists backing the campaign are in despair about the Government’s perceived lack of consideration for the creative community.

“Today’s Select Committee session will do little to soothe the growing concerns of the UK’s artists, musicians and live music businesses,” it said. “While we continue to suffer the catastrophic impacts of Covid, many are now in open despair at the Government’s disturbing lack of urgency to address a range of Brexit-related bureaucracy and costs that will make EU touring almost prohibitively expensive and burdensome.

“Despite being told by the prime minister in March that Lord Frost was dealing with these issues and would ‘fix it’, we’re still left with only crumbs of additional information and absolutely no update on the kind of transitional support package that will be vital for music businesses to operate in the short-term.”

To put the situation in context, the campaign said the UK’s £1bn fishing industry had received £23m to adjust to new red tape while the £6bn music industry is being “hung out to dry”.

“It feels like a complete abdication of responsibility,” it said.

The session can be watched here.