The UK’s theatre industry has warned of the “severe consequences” of the post-Brexit performing arts touring provisions on the sector.

In a letter from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Theatre, it highlights the current lack of clarity, and offers possible solutions to issues around movement of people and goods between the UK and the EU as part of international live tours.

The letter is supported by UK Theatre, Society of London Theatre (SOLT), the Association of British Orchestras (ABO), One Dance UK, the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) and UK Music.

Since Brexit, different visa and work permit rules now apply across each of the 27 EU member states. The Theatre APPG suggests that the government urgently reviews short-term visitor routes into the UK and comes to an agreement with the EU exempting touring performers, creative teams and crews from entry requirements or restrictions on short-term work for up to 90 days.

In addition, new rules on transporting physical production, set, props, musical instruments and other items will create additional costs, delays and increased journey times for performing arts companies.

The letter explains that to avoid this, the UK government must secure an exemption for these goods.

Giles Watling MP, co-chair of the Theatre APPG, said: “As someone who worked in Europe in a life before politics, I know that there are significant opportunities for the performing arts on the continent, and we need to ensure that our domestic talent can access those.

“As we set out in this letter, and even with a Brexit deal, significant obstacles have emerged that threaten our world-leading performing arts exports and imports, which also puts their economic, social and cultural contributions at risk. Working with other concerned APPGs, it is my hope that the Government will recognise the importance of acting swiftly to address the issues we have raised, and I look forward to receiving their response.”

According the the APPG for Theatre, the international standing and economic success of the whole industry, from hit West End shows such as War Horse, Matilda The Musical and Harry Potter And The Cursed Child, to globally renowned UK orchestras and dance companies, depends on the relationship with European venues, promoters and audiences, and on the flow of talent.

The APPG for Theatre was founded in July 2019 to support the resilience and relevance of theatre in the UK for audiences, its workforce and society.

Julian Bird, chief executive of SOLT and UK Theatre, added: “Now that the free trade agreement has been concluded with the EU and we are starting to understand its implications, we want to work with Government and our EU counterparts on other mechanisms that will maintain the UK’s longstanding international reputation for critically acclaimed, high quality and financially successful theatre exports, whilst continuing to encourage EU colleagues to collaborate with us here.

“Although the sector is largely still focussed on resilience under COVID-19, it takes months to plan productions and we already have early evidence of tours being re-routed and cancelled from EU dates, and profits and jobs leaving the UK and going to Europe.”

Image: Andreas Praefcke / Attribution 3.0 Unported / Edited for size