Life after Brexit is no party in the park, as cultural practitioners in the U.K. and European Union (EU) are discovering.
The ongoing controversy around U.K. musicians not being able to tour the European Union (EU) and vice versa post-Brexit came to a head on Wednesday with more than 100 prominent music personalities sending a strongly worded letter to the U.K. government demanding action.
In a letter published in The Times and signed by the likes of Elton John, Ed Sheeran, Bob Geldof, Sting, Nicola Benedetti and the Kanneh-Mason family, the musicians wrote: “British musicians, dancers, actors and their support staff have been shamefully failed by their government. The deal done with the EU has a gaping hole where the promised free movement for musicians should be: everyone on a European music tour will now need costly work permits and a mountain of paperwork for their equipment.
“The extra costs 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. This negotiating failure will tip many performers over the edge,” the letter continues.
“We urge the government to do what it said it would do and negotiate paperwork-free travel in Europe for British artists and their equipment. For the sake of British fans wanting to see European performers in the U.K. and British venues wishing to host them, the deal should be reciprocal.”
The controversy has been dragging on for a few weeks with both sides — the U.K. and the EU — accusing the other of not playing ball. Some clarity arrived on Tuesday when U.K. Minister of State (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) Caroline Dinenage revealed there had been a “very broad” offer” from the EU, which “would not have been compatible with the government’s manifesto commitment to take back control of our borders.”
In a larger cultural context, a petition seeking a Europe-wide visa-free work permit for touring professionals and artists has drawn more than 263,000 signatories, which means that the U.K. government has responded and that the matter will be debated in parliament.
As a first step, on Wednesday, U.K. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden will participate in a discussion with cultural and creative industries reps to discuss government support for the sector.
Meanwhile, musicians and their support personnel continue to need separate visas for each of the 27 EU member states, with permits beginning at $478. Equipment carriers are allowed to visit only three cities per EU visit under current rules.
The letter’s signatories in full:
Roger Waters; Sir Simon Rattle; Dame Sarah Connolly; Sir George Benjamin; Sir Harrison Birtwistle; Nicola Benedetti; Steven Isserlis; Stephen Hough; Sir András Schiff; Judith Weir; Roderick Williams; Amanda Roocroft; Amelia Freedman; Nash Ensemble; Anna Meredith; Anna Patalong; Benjamin Baker; Bond Quartet; Brindley Sherratt; Professor Catherine Martin; Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Catriona Price; Chi-chi Nwanoku; Chris Stark, Christian Curnyn; Claudia Huckle; Dr Mark Taylor; Elizabeth Wallfisch; Gabriella Swallow; Gina McCormack; Gregory Walmsley; Harry Bicket; Hilary Summers; Jeremy Huw Williams; Jess Gillam; Joseph Middleton; Kate Royal; Lauma Skride; Levon Chilingirian; Mahaliah Edwards; Martyn Brabbins; Michael Chance; Miloš Karadaglić; Nicholas Collon; Nicky Spence; Paul Cassidy; Peter Robinson; Prof Nicholas Daniel; Professor Julian Anderson; Professor Julian Lloyd Webber; Professor Peter Fribbins; Rakhvinder Singh; Raphael Wallfisch; Rosa Mannion; Ruth Rogers; Sean Shibe; Sheku Kanneh-Mason; Tasmin Little; the Kanneh-Mason family; Sir Elton John; Ed Sheeran; Roger Daltrey; Bob Geldof; Midge Ure; Sting; Robert Plant; Peter Gabriel; Rag’n’Bone Man; Nick Mason; Aitch; Alex Kapranos; Beabadoobee; Bicep; Brett Anderson; Brian Eno; Brian May; Bryan Adams; Captain Sensible; Charlie Burchill; Chris Difford; Danny McNamara; Dave Stewart; Fryars; Gary Kemp; Gary Numan; Glass Animals; Grace Carter; Hayden Thorpe; Hot Chip; Hugh Cornwell; Iron Maiden; Jayda G; Jim Kerr; Joss Stone; Jungle; Kasai; Kero Kero Bonito; Kim Wilde; King Krule; LA Priest; Liam Gallagher; Mark King; Mick Hucknell; Nik Kershaw; Priya Ragu & Japhna Gold; Radiohead; Rick Wakeman; Roger Taylor; Ross From Friends; Rusty Egan Visage; Sex Pistols; SG Lewis; Simian Mobile Disco; SK Shlomo; Steve Norman; Superorganism; Terry Britten; The 1975; The Darkness; Will Young; Dame Evelyn Glennie; Julia Haferkorn; David Francis; Karine Polwart; Peewee Ellis; John J. Williamson; Sam Leak; Michael Eavis; Emily Eavis; John Gilhooly; Paul Mandry; Fielding Hope, James Clutton; Deborah Annetts; James Ainscough; Alasdair Tait; Annabella Coldrick; Ashutosh Khandekar; Atlas Management; Barbara Osborne; Carol Main; Carole Tongue; Claire Owen; Daniel Miller; Danny Keir; David Martin; David Taylor; Donagh Collins; Dr Aoife Monks; Felix Howard; Graham Sheffield; Howard Goodall; James McAulay; John Gidding; Keith Harris; Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp; Lucy Heyman; Mary-Alice Stack; Patrick Woodroffe; Professor Chris Collins; Rod Smallwood; Sandra Schembri; Sir David Bell; Tom Travis; Vick Bain.