UK music industry unites to fight for right to tour in the EU

The Musicians’ Union (MU) and Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) have been working together with politicians and civil servants to try to unravel the mess the Brexit trade agreement has caused for UK music touring in the EU.

With the multi-million-pound music touring industry completely omitted from the agreement, any hopes of reviving its fortunes post-pandemic have all been shattered. The maze of work permits, visas, carnets, musical instrument certificates, technical safety standards and the cabotage rules ensure any size of touring act is priced and regulated out of the European Union.

As it stands, the new agreement leaves the performing arts touring industry far more restricted than it was before the UK joined the European Economic Community in the 1970s. Artists, crew, technical hire firms, staging, security, catering, merchandising and vehicle firms are all threatened with bankruptcy, as is the future development of British musical talent.

A public petition to save the industry has attracted around 300,000 signatures and is due to be debated by Parliament. The House of Lords has also established an enquiry into what the new deal means for UK music. Letters signed by established artists have entreated the Government to address the matter urgently and Elton John has met with the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary of State, Oliver Dowden, to press the case for the industry.

The Government has responded that it may find funds to help mitigate some of the costs but has so far refused to consider re-visiting the agreement. However, the ISM and MU are hopeful that meetings to be held this week between the UK and EU might provide some movement. So, the two leading representatives of musicians in the UK have come together to lobby the industry case.

ISM Chief Executive Deborah Annetts said, ‘We are delighted to join with the Musicians’ Union to ensure that politicians listen to the concerns of our sector. We urge the UK Government to take the necessary steps to ensure border arrangements after Brexit do not negatively impact the creative industries, harming both musicians’ livelihoods and the music industry itself. Collaborative solutions to address issues around visas, administrative and financial challenges are desperately needed for a sector which has been so badly affected by COVID-19. Now is the time for the UK and EU to come together to fix these problems and ensure that close cultural collaboration can continue after Brexit.’

Horace Trubridge, Musicians’ Union General Secretary agreed, ‘The MU welcomes this collaboration with the ISM. The future of touring in the EU depends very much on achieving changes to the situation we find ourselves in arising from the conclusion of the negotiations for the TCA. We urgently need both the EU and the UK to agree provisions for musicians and crew that will avoid costly and complicated bureaucracy. As things stand, work visas, work permits, restrictions on haulage and uncertainty regarding carnets all present barriers for our world leading musicians. We were promised frictionless mobility for musicians and their crew and now we need the EU and the UK to deliver just that.’

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