Labour MP Harriet Harman said Government ignorance of the arts is putting British musicians’ livelihoods at risk and has called for an end to the post-Brexit bureaucracy for musicians looking to tour in the EU.

The MP for Camberwell & Peckham has unveiled a 10-point plan of proposed measures, which has won the support of associations including UK Music and Musician’s Union.

She said, “The UK is a hugely important venue for EU artists. With world-famous music festivals, orchestras, and concert halls, to list just a few, the UK is a central destination not just for performers but also audiences. 12.6m tourists are drawn to the UK every year for festivals and gigs during the course of which they spend £4.7bn, and sustain over 45,000 jobs in music tourism.”

“The restrictions in place upon EU musicians travelling and working effectively in the UK puts at risk the vibrancy of the UK music scene, as well as affecting all those who rely on the live music industry for their livelihoods. The visa requirements are bureaucratic and compared to those that EU musicians face elsewhere in Europe make travelling and performing here a much less appealing prospect.

“By restricting those who can perform in the UK, inevitably what is on offer to audiences will be impoverished. Our arts and culture benefits from the cross fertilisation of the interaction between UK and EU artists, and EU artists enrich our own cultural environment. This is now at risk.”

The Demand

UK and EU musicians need reciprocal visa- and permit-free touring rights.

A 10 Point Plan To Get There

To create a pathway to the goal of reciprocal, bespoke EU-wide visa- and permit-free touring rights for musicians and performers, the government should:

  1. Negotiate reciprocal bilateral work permit agreements with countries, prioritising those countries most financially important to UK musicians and those that do not offer cultural exemptions for work permits, such as Spain, Italy, and Portugal.
  2. Negotiate a cultural exemption from cabotage rules for music tours.
  3. Negotiate the exemption of musical instruments and equipment from Carnet and CITES requirements.
  4. Publish correspondence and relevant information relating to previous negotiations with the EU on this matter, as it is not possible for the UK music sector to assist in lobbying EU countries without knowing what the UK Government has already proposed and why it was rejected.
  5. Guarantee the continuation of at least part of the furlough and self-employed support for the music sector even after Covid restrictions have been lifted until such time as the visa issues have been resolved.
  6. Create a Music Touring Fund to support touring until such time as these issues are resolved.
  7. Extend the VAT reduction for the cultural sector until businesses have fully reopened and sales have restarted and until the visa issue is resolved enabling EU touring to recommence.
  8. Establish within Government, a Music Export Office (within the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Cabinet Office, the Department for International Trade, or the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) to lead on the UK-EU and bilateral negotiations for musicians touring in EU countries and to co-ordinate support to musicians dealing with visa and other obstacles until such time as the visa issues are resolved.
  9. Establish an ad hoc cross-departmental working group to co-ordinate work by officials across government departments on this issue.
  10. Designate a minister to lead on this re-negotiation and lead the cross-departmental work on this issue.