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UK Govt claims to be making progress on EU touring access

The Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) has issued a statement saying that 20 EU member states now offer some form of visa-free access to UK touring artists and their support teams.

Despite the claim to be fighting the corner of UK musicians, the statement admits that visa and work permit exemptions continue to differ from state to state and that each nation has its own rules and regulations about taxation, merchandise sales etcetera. And Greece, Spain and Portugal are among the seven EU members that have resisted DCMS requests to allow visa-free access, to date.

The DCMS has vainly attempted to convince the touring sector that it is succeeding in overcoming the self-inflicted catastrophe of Brexit on the UK’s creative industries.

So, this press release will not convince many that the arrival of Nadine Dorries as Culture Secretary is likely to have any meaningful impact. The campaign group Carry On Touring has already pointed out that DCMS’s claims of victory in visa negotiations merely represented a realisation that these countries offer such access to any third nation’s artists.

In August, when the DCMS alleged they had negotiated visa-free access to 19 states, the Incorporated Society of Musicians accused the government of misleading its members as many of those visa-free periods amounted to just a few days and were of little use to anyone planning a continental tour.

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the ISM said, ‘Our touring musicians deserve better than misleading statements from government, when many have serious concerns for their future careers and livelihoods. We believe that pursuing a Visa Waiver Agreement with the EU remains a critical part of the solution, enabling artists to tour in Europe with ease once more, something that is vital for many musicians in order to make a living.’

At present, there is no indication that the UK Government will relax its refusal to negotiate directly with the EU on behalf of the £5.8billion, 200,000-person UK music sector.