Brexit: Customs officials may ‘enforce law to letter’ says Iain Dale
Brussels officials claimed Britain had turned down a plan that would have enabled musicians to tour throughout the continent without visas. The latest comments came after Downing Street insisted that its own “ambitious” proposals had been rejected by the EU. Brussels’ chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters: “I very much regretted that the British didn’t have more ambition for people’s mobility.
“From last March, we made fairly ambitious proposals in terms of mobility, including for specific categories such as journalists, performers, musicians and others.
“But you need to be two to make a deal.”
Following the end of the Brexit transition period on New Year’s Eve, British musicians and crews are no longer guaranteed visa-free travel, meaning they may require additional work permits to perform in some European countries.
Under the trade deal agreed between the UK and EU last month, British bands can tour Europe for up to 90 days in a 180-day period.
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But performers will require extra visas for paid work for tours in Germany and Spain, while those in France and The Netherlands will not.
The Association of British Orchestras has claimed truck drivers transporting stage equipment for musicians must now return home to the UK after visiting two EU member states.
But an EU spokesperson told the BBC: “The UK has chosen to no longer allow the free movement of EU citizens to the UK. It also refused to include a chapter on mobility in the agreement.
“These choices inevitably mean that travel between the EU and the UK – including for business purposes – will no longer be as easy as it was while the UK was a member state.”
The spokesperson claimed the UK “refused to include a commitment on visa-free short stays”, meaning the likes of musicians, sportspeople and journalists would not have required individual visas.
He added: “As a result, it is now up to each member state to determine if a visa is required for short-stay visits for the purpose of carrying out a paid activity. This is fully in line with EU law.”
Downing Street has previously insisted it “pushed for a more ambitious agreement with the EU on the temporary movement of business travellers, which would have covered musicians and others, but our proposals were rejected by the EU”.
This week, the Government added “the door remains open should the EU change its mind”, while Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden lashed out at the EU for “letting down music on both sides of the Channel – not us”.
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The backlash has been ramped up following a petition signed by more than a quarter-of-a-million people, including artists Laura Marling, Biffy Clyro and Dua Lipa.
They are urging the Government to “negotiate a free cultural work permit” that would enable “bands, musicians, artists, TV and sports celebrities that tour the EU to perform shows and events and carnet exception for touring equipment”.
During Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Boris Johnson promised meet MPs over these issues facing the UK music industry.
He said: “I know that our friends in the EU will be wanting to go further to improve things for not just musicians, but business travellers of all kinds. There is a mutual benefit.”
But Musicians’ Union General Secretary Horace Trubridge wants the Prime Minister to offer greater support for UK artists that would like to tour throughout Europe once Covid restrictions are lifted in several countries.
He said: “Our industry has been incredibly badly hit by the Covid-19 crisis and if our members are also restricted by additional costs and red tape on touring once things start to go back to normal, we will see a real downturn in what is a unique British success story: Music.”
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