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UK music stars denounce EU touring deal

UK music stars, including Elton John and Roger Waters, have said the government has “shamefully failed” artists in its Brexit deal and called for visa-free touring in the European Union.

In an open letter, which was organised by the Incorporated Society of Musicians and published in The Times, was signed by more than 100 musicians plus dozens of other prominent figures in the industry who have formed a united front to condemn an agreement they claim will make Europe a no-go zone for musicians.

Artists touring the continent are now required to check domestic immigration and visitor rules for each member state in which they intend to tour. These new measures may require them to have multiple visas or work permits, which could be expensive and potentially prohibitive, particularly for musicians at the start of their careers.

The open letter reads: “The deal done with the EU has a gaping hole where the promised free movement for musicians should be. Everyone on a European music tour will now need costly work permits for many countries they visit and a mountain of paperwork for their equipment.”

The extra costs will “tip many performers over the edge,” it added, while also calling on the government to “urgently do what it said it would do and negotiate paperwork-free travel in Europe for British artists and their equipment.”

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, added: “World-renowned performers, emerging artists from every genre and the most respected figures from leading organisations within our sector are now sending a clear message.

“It is essential for the government to negotiate a new reciprocal agreement that allows performers to tour in Europe for up to 90 days, without the need for a work permit.”

The letter, also signed by the violinist Nicola Benedetti and heads of the leading opera companies, plus Bob Geldof, Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor, Joss Stone and Iron Maiden said that the government’s “negotiating failure” threatens the future of cultural exchange with the continent.

Responding to the letter, a UK government spokesperson said they “absolutely agree” that musicians should be able to work across Europe. Adding: “The UK Government put forward a proposal, based on feedback from the music sector, that would have allowed musicians to tour – but the EU repeatedly rejected this.

“The EU’s offer in the negotiations would not have worked for touring musicians: it did not deal with work permits at all, and would not have allowed support staff to tour with artists. The signatories of this letter should be asking the EU why they rejected the sensible UK proposal.”

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden will meet music industry representatives today (Wednesday) to address their concerns.

Image: Ernst Vikne / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Edited for size