Arts & Culture

Musicians’ group calls for government to “make Brexit work” following survey

The Independent Society of Musicians (ISM) has called on the UK government to “make Brexit work” after a survey suggested music sector workers have had less work in the European Union since the UK’s departure from the bloc.

The Paying The Price survey of 400 music sector workers found that almost half (47.4%) have had less work in the EU since the introduction of legislation that amended visa rules in January 2021. More than a quarter (27.8%) said that they have had no work at all in the EU.

ISM said key findings of the report show that restrictions introduced by the Trade and Cooperation Act (TCA), which came into law on January 1, 2021, have had “an enormously damaging effect” on musicians’ ability to work in EU member states. Read the report here.

The report recommends that the government should negotiate a bespoke Visa Waiver Agreement (VWA) with the EU that allows UK artists and their support staff to work in any part of the EU for up to 90 days in a period of 180 days. It should also negotiate bilateral agreements for work permits with individual EU Member States which do not currently offer cultural exemptions.

“UK music is a great success story and we are rightly proud of it,” said Deborah Annetts, the ISM’s chief executive. “The chancellor has correctly identified the creative industries as a potential growth market. However, as Paying The Price shows, the Government has been asleep on the job. It could have tackled many of the issues facing the music sector by itself and made Brexit work. It chose not to.

“This report provides a pathway to make Brexit work for music, and most of the recommendations would not require renegotiating the TCA.

“Brexit should never have meant that musicians cannot share their talent freely with our closest neighbours. This damages our country, our soft power and our precious creative talent pipeline. Music is worth £5.8bn to the UK economy and the wider creative industries are worth £116bn. We call on the government to take action and make Brexit work for the wellbeing of musicians and our economy.”

Other findings of the report, which was promoted by the ISM, include more than a third (39%) of respondents have had to turn down work since January 2021, while 40% had had work cancelled in the same period. The most frequently cited expense was for visas and work permits (23%), followed by carnets (18%) and travel costs (14%).

The survey, which closed in April 2023, asked about musicians’ experiences of working in Europe since the date the TCA was provisionally applied in January 2021. Participants were specifically asked to exclude any experiences that may have been affected by COVID-19 during this period due to the resulting variance in entry requirements and restrictions in place in most European countries.