Music industry hits out at government's post-Brexit visa blunder

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·3 min read
Lead singer Bono of Irish rock band U2 performs during their 360 Degree Tour at King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels September 22, 2010.   REUTERS/Thierry Roge   (BELGIUM - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)
A “standard” proposal exempting performers from extra costs and bureaucracy for 90 days was reportedly turned down, because the UK would not offer a reciprocal deal to EU artists visiting this country. Photo: Reuters/Thierry Roge

Music industry bosses have hit out at news that the UK government rejected an offer of visa-free tours by musicians to EU countries.

The Independent first reported last night that a “standard” proposal exempting performers from extra costs and bureaucracy for 90 days was turned down, because the UK would not offer a reciprocal deal to EU artists visiting this country.

The Musicians’ Union said it had been assured by ministers for many months that the creative arts and music industry in particular was a priority. It said the government would put it “front-of-mind during discussions with the EU.”

Horace Trubridge, MU General Secretary, said: “With the British music business having been devastated by Covid-19 and with no end in sight to the black hole of cancelled concerts, tours, festivals and regular gigs that is the very bedrock of our world-class industry, the news, if true, that our own elected representatives chose to turn down such an offer is nigh-on unbelievable.

“Ever since the result of the referendum in 2016, the MU has campaigned and lobbied for a Musicians’ Passport that would allow our members and their support crew to make a successful living across Europe,” Trubridge continued.

“This campaign has been backed by all sides of the industry and current petitions, signed by hundreds of thousands of musicians, industry workers and supporters, illustrate just how vital the freedom of economic movement is to our industry worth £5.8bn ($7.9bn) to the UK.”

READ MORE: Music chiefs warn UK summer festivals risk cancellation despite vaccines

The revelation comes following a report last week, where music chiefs warned that aside from issues travelling abroad, Britain could see most summer festivals cancelled even if vaccines are rapidly rolled out in the months to come.

Music chiefs said organisers need an indicative date for when large events will be allowed to take place, and a government-backed insurance scheme to deal with cancellation risks.

UK Music, the trade body for the recorded and live music sector said there was a “serious risk” of cancellations without urgent government help. It noted key decisions were already being made now about whether summer events would go ahead.

The report noted the estimated £5.8bn pre-pandemic value and 200,000 jobs in the music industry in the UK, but highlighted the severe toll of the pandemic in 2020. Festivals saw a 90.2% drop in revenue and as much as half the live music workforce may have lost their jobs.

The House of Commons culture select committee is carrying out an inquiry into the viability of this summer's events, after the coronavirus pandemic wiped out the 2020 festival season. MPs were told last week that some of the UK’s biggest festivals could be called off before the end of the month.

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