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Positive signs from UK government on EU touring rights

The Musicians’ Union and Incorporated Society of Musicians have welcomed a commitment from government to address the issues for music tours following Brexit

Following weeks of of intense lobbying and debate in the Houses of Lords and the Commons from music and touring industry leaders, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) appears to have softened its stance on performance artists moving freely between the UK and EU.

On 6 February, DCMS Minister Caroline Dinenage stated that the level of free movement offered to touring performers and crews by the EU negotiating team was, ‘simply not consistent with the manifesto commitment to take back control of our borders’ and said there would be no re-visiting the deal.

Ten days later, following a deposition from the Musicians’ Union (MU) and Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) to MPs from the DCMS committee, Dinenage backtracked and agreed that the whole of Whitehall is committed to working with music organisations to find workable solutions to mobility, cost and bureaucracy. The MU and ISM have both agreed to play ‘an active and constructive role’ in working with the government.

DCMS has also said that musicians travelling with portable instruments between the UK and EU will not be subject to costly customs declarations of ATA Carnets. How the EU stands on this, and how it affects artists travelling with vehicles or the wider tour support industry is, as yet, uncertain, but the MU and ISM see this as a major breakthrough.

ISM Chief Executive Deborah Annetts said, ‘I was delighted to speak to MPs yesterday and it was fantastic to see that the minister and civil servants at DCMS are fully committed to fixing the problems including mobility facing touring musicians after Brexit. We now need the same willingness from the EU so that both sides can come together to find workable solutions to the mountain of costs and red tape.

‘The Creative industries contributed more than £111bn to the UK economy in 2018 but we have already been so badly affected by COVID-19. The ISM is ready to expand our ongoing activities to support the UK Government so that close cultural collaboration can continue after Brexit.’

Horace Trubridge, Musicians’ Union General Secretary, added, ‘Both the the MU and the ISM have amassed a large body of evidence and information that we are happy to share with the ministers in order to work towards finding positive solutions for the problems that our world leading musicians and the ancillary workers currently face as a result of the breakdown in negotiations for our sector. Let’s move forward together with the various government departments in a spirit of cooperation to systematically remove the barriers that we have identified.’