Music stars slam UK’s ‘shameful’ failure on EU touring rules

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LONDON, Jan 21, (AP): Dozens of UK music stars including Elton John, Ed Sheeran and conductor Simon Rattle say musicians have been “shamefully failed” by the British government, which has left them facing post-Brexit restrictions on touring in the European Union. In a letter published Wednesday in the Times of London, more than 100 musicians including Sting, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters and Roger Daltrey of The Who, along with the heads of major arts institutions, said the new UK-EU trade deal that took effect Jan. 1 has “a gaping hole where the promised free movement for musicians should be.”

Britain’s departure from the EU means that UK citizens can no longer live and work freely in the 27-nation bloc. Tourists do not need visas for stays of up to 90 days, and some short business trips are also allowed. But artists and musicians have not been included in the deal. Britain and the EU disagree about who is to blame for the omission, each accusing the other of rejecting a deal for touring artists. The new rules mean UK performers have to comply with differing rules in the 27 EU nations, negotiating visas for musicians and permits for their equipment.

Many say the costs and red tape will make it impossible for British artists to perform on the continent, endangering the country’s status as a cultural powerhouse. The musicians’ letter said the new expense and bureaucracy will make “many tours unviable, especially for young emerging musicians who are already struggling to keep their heads above water owing to the COVID ban on live music.” Scottish National Party lawmaker Pete Wishart, a former member of rock band Runrig, said Tuesday in the House of Commons that musicians and artists were “mere collateral in this government’s obsession in ending freedom of movement” and controlling immigration once it left the EU. Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage acknowledged the situation was “incredibly disappointing,” but said “the door is open” to talks with the EU on a deal for musicians. She resisted calls from the opposition to publish details of the proposals made by the UK during negotiations that the bloc allegedly rejected

British musicians are demanding that the UK government faces the music after new post-Brexit regulations failed to consider their unique work lives and left them in the lurch. Nearly 260,000 people – including UK artists Laura Marling, Louis Tomlinson and Biffy Clyro – have signed a petition for the British government to negotiate a review of the rules for musicians touring in the 27-nation European Union. After Brexit UK citizens can no longer live and work freely in the bloc.

Tourists don’t need visas for stays of up to 90 days, and some short business trips are allowed under a new deal between Britain and the EU. But artists and musicians have not been included – incurring extra costs and hassle – and both sides disagree about who is to blame. British musicians wanting to perform in Europe face a range of hurdles, including the extra cost of buying a customs document – known as a carnet – for the movement of equipment, and the possibility of additional work permits required in certain countries.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, Jamie Davies said London had sought reciprocal rights for musicians and support staff to tour without work permits, “but that offer was rejected by the EU.” “We will continue to make the case for an arrangement that makes touring easier, and our door remains open to the EU if they change their mind,” Davies said. Even though the pandemic is currently preventing tours, the ability to plan now is vital, said Paul Pacifico, CEO of the Association of Independent Music, which represents the UK’s independent music sector.

Red tape around sales tax alone will force smaller outfits to face a mountain of additional bureaucracy and expense, Pacifico said. “If you’re a band on tour and you sell a CD in Germany, you’re going to have to make a sales tax return in Germany,” he said. “Same for France, Italy, Croatia, Belgium, Luxembourg, etc.” European bands hoping to play in the UK will also be affected. Swedish punk band The Hives frontman Pelle Almqvist said his group, which first found international fame in Britain, will now have to think twice before playing live there. “We’ll probably end up doing (fewer) shows in the UK because there’ll be less of an economic incentive,” Almqvist said Wednesday. “I don’t know, worst case scenario playing in the UK turns into hobby.” British composer and House of Lords member Michael Berkeley, is also calling for a return to the negotiating table.

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