British music acts including Radiohead, the Chemical Brothers, Biffy Clyro and Annie Lennox are calling on the UK government to offer financial support to help artists tour the EU post-Brexit.
The terms of the Brexit agreement mean that performing artists of all kinds must now have work permits to earn money from gigs in EU countries, and have a “carnet” that allows the transport of goods such as musical instruments across borders.
Touring vehicles registered in the UK are now only able to make three stops in the EU before returning home, making multi-stop tours unviable. Previously UK companies and artists could earn money across the EU unimpeded.
Supporting the new initiative Let the Music Move, more than 200 artists want the UK government “to do more to support the future of the music industry, and mitigate the Brexit-related impacts of restrictions, costs and delays on European touring”. Other musicians giving their backing include New Order, Little Mix, Niall Horan, Wolf Alice, Idles, Kano, Peggy Seeger and Nitin Sawhney.
Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits said: “To take a van with your gear and perform across Europe is an essential start for the careers of many UK musicians. Without immediate government action to address the bureaucratic barriers put in place since 1 January, a whole generation of musicians will simply not be able to start or continue their touring careers.”
Skin, of Skunk Anansie, said: “After the extreme financial impact of the pandemic, [EU] touring can, and will be, the lifesaver for many bands, artists and crews.”
As well as a short-term “transitional support package” to help artists fund the expense of the new paperwork, the initiative calls for a renegotiation on touring, or at least new bilateral agreements with each country that will reduce the costs and red tape.
Earlier this month, the UK government trumpeted a new deal that allows unimpeded touring to Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, which was scorned by many in the music industry. “Iceland’s population is roughly the same as Wigan,” said Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess. “Liechtenstein has a similar number of residents as Wilmslow. If it wasn’t tragic, it would be funny.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said it “recognises the difficulties still being faced by the sector” and was “working closely with individual member states to encourage them to adopt a more flexible approach”.
On 29 June, Brexit negotiator Lord Frost is due to give evidence to a DCMS committee hearing on the government’s failure to negotiate visa-free work for British performing artists. Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has previously said that during Brexit negotiations, the EU rejected a “mutually beneficial agreement that would have allowed performers to continue working and perform across the continent without the need for work permits”, a claim that was disputed by the EU.
In May, Elton John met Frost, and later said on Instagram: “During our meeting Lord Frost said trying to solve this issue is a long process. Unfortunately our industry doesn’t have time. It is dying now … we are currently in grave danger of losing a generation of talent due to the gaping holes in the government’s trade deal.”