The Music Managers Forum (MMF) said the Government’s reported rejection of a Brexit agreement with the EU that would have enabled artists to undertake visa-free tours of the continent is “utter insanity”.

Brexit travel rules, which came into force on 1 January, do not guarantee visa-free travel for tours involving any of the EU’s 27 member states. The situation has sparked concerns across the live music industry.

Rob Merrick’s article in The Independent, suggesting it was the UK Government that rejected visa-free tours of the EU, not the other way round as previously suggested, has sparked furore in the live music industry.

The Independent piece stated that a “standard” proposal to exempt performers from the significant cost and bureaucracy for 90 days was turned down. An unnamed source was quoted as having said, “It is usually in our agreements with third countries, that [work] visas are not required for musicians. We tried to include it but the UK said no.”

The Department of Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) said in a statement, “The UK pushed for a more ambitious agreement with the EU on the temporary movement of business travellers, which would have covered musicians and others, but our proposals were rejected by the EU.”

Artists have reacted angrily to the reports, with Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke describing the Government as “spineless”, and Tim Burgess describing the situation as the great rock’n’roll swindle. He said, “We need to get answers to this and not let them sweep it under the carpet – [Government] shouldn’t be let off the hook for treating artists with such contempt.”

MMF CEO Annabella Coldrick said, “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. 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.

“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.”

UK citizens going to France to work for up to 90 days will not require a visa, according to Le Ministère de l’Europe et des Affaires Etrangères. “They will need to obtain a temporary work permit unless travelling for a sporting, cultural or scientific event, a seminar or trade show.”