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MPs call on UK Government to remove EU touring barriers

A cross-party group of MPs and Peers have released a report calling on the UK Government to remove barriers faced by UK musicians when touring the European Union (EU).

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music (APPG on Music), which incorporates more than 100 MPs and Peers, published the ‘Let Music Move – A New Deal for Touring’ report outlining the urgent action required to help UK musicians and crew tour in Europe more easily.

The music industry has been calling for action over the soaring costs and red tape making touring difficult in Europe post-Brexit, as well as the impact on the sector’s emerging talent.

The APPG’s report warns that UK music workers are facing more costs, further complications and fewer opportunities since the UK left the EU in January 2020. Key issues include complex post-Brexit restrictions on short-term working in the EU for UK music workers, as well as the inability to use UK trucks for British musicians touring in Europe.

Sir Elton John gave a statement to the APPG on Music inquiry for the report and said: “The Government has had a golden opportunity to fix the problem while COVID was closing down touring.

“While some progress has been made that opportunity has been allowed to slip… The heartbeat and future of our vibrant industry face finding themselves stranded in Dover through no fault of their own.”

Those that gave evidence to the inquiry included promoter Harvey Goldsmith; Mark Pemberton, chief executive of the British Orchestra; Jeremy Pritchard, Everything, Everything bassist; Anita Debaere, director of PEARLE – Live Performance Europe; Silke Lalvani, head of public affairs PEARLE; Fiona McDonnell, head of concerts and planning, the Academy of Ancient Music; Paul Crockford, manger and Craig Stanley, Chair of the LIVE Touring Group.

British band White Lies had to cancel a show in Paris in April, after their equipment was “detained by Brexit legislation leaving England”.

The band said: “It cost the band (and our fans) financially and emotionally, and shouldn’t have happened. We have the resources to pay experienced professionals to guide us through the red tape, but the reality for newer acts is that touring in Europe could become an impossible dream.

“We welcome all proposals for extra funding, designated websites to provide clear guidance, the cutting of red tape, and the appointment of a touring tsar to help expedite all of the above. These changes can go some way to helping this country’s musicians and performers to not become a cultural casualty of Brexit.”

The APPG on Music report concluded that more action is needed from the UK Government to tackle issues surrounding visas and the movement of kit and merchandise.

Key recommendations from the report to remove barriers when touring in the EU include the appointment of a ‘Touring Tsar’ to coordinate the response of the Government and other stakeholders; the creation of a Transitional Support Fund to help UK music exporters deal with rising costs of trading in Europe post-Brexit and the establishment of a new Music Exports Office and website.

The report is also calling for the Government to work with EU nations to set up a Cultural Touring Agreement; the expansion of the BPI-administered Music Export Growth Scheme (MEGS) and the PRS Foundation-administered International Showcase Fund (ISF); an overhaul of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement to exempt music workers supporting cultural performances, as well as changes to ensure EU states allow musicians to work up to 90 days in each 180-day period.

The final call is an expansion of the number of border points where documents such as carnets and Music Instrument Certificates can be checked.

Kevin Brennan, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music, said: “We have heard evidence from right across the UK music industry about some of the horrendous problems musicians and crew face touring the EU.

“It’s over two years since Brexit, yet there is still a mountain of red tape and extra costs that musicians and crew have to deal with before they can play to fans in many EU states.

“Our recommendations include the appointment of a Touring tsar by the Government who could work across government departments to get rid of restrictions that are hampering the growth of the music industry and creation of new jobs.

“Without urgent action there is a very real risk that the talent pipeline on which the UK music industry relies will be badly damaged for years to come.”

Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, chief executive of UK Music, added: “This excellent report from a cross-party group of MPs and peers spells out with crystal clarity the challenges many musicians and crew still face when they set out to tour and work in the EU.

“The influence of British music right across the world is one of the greatest examples of the UK’s soft power. Touring musicians are ambassadors for Britain and Government should be doing everything it can to help remove the barriers they face.

“The UK is a global music superpower – if we want to keep it that way, then it’s mission critical we remove the barriers facing touring musicians and Let The Music Move.”

Image: Danny Howe on Unsplash