Musicians Can Now Travel Visa-Free in 19 EU Member States
For decades, music acts and bands from the UK have been touring Europe, and likewise, European musical talent has been able to tour in the UK easily and freely. The loss of freedom of movement between the UK and the EU at the start of 2021 had a devastating impact on many, including those in the music industry.
Such was the concern over the loss of access to Europe, the #LetTheMusicMove campaign involving 200 artists including Wolf Alice, IDLES, Poppy Ajudha, and Radiohead attempted to bring attention to what many in the sector saw as a de-facto Brexit no-deal for British music. Sir Elton John recently warned that the UK music sector was at risk of losing “a generation of talent” due to their inability to tour freely within the EU. In a statement to a hearing by Digital, Culture, Media (DCMS) and the Sports Committee on the issue of EU travel arrangements, Sir Elton said, “I want to be clear that the issues of visa-free and permit-free touring aren’t about the impact on me, and artists who tour arenas and stadiums…This gravest of situations is about the damage to the next generation of musicians and emerging artists, whose careers will stall before they’ve even started due to this infuriating blame game…If I had faced the financial and logistical obstacles facing young musicians now when I started out, I’d never have had the opportunity to build the foundations of my career, and I very much doubt I would be where I am today”.
Thankfully, on 4th August 2021, the DCMS was able to announce new arrangements with 19 EU member states for visa-free travel for UK musicians.
What Is the New EU Visa-Free Travel Arrangements for British Musicians?
Music acts from the UK will now be able to undertake short-term tours in 19 EU member states without needing a visa; these countries include Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Sweden. The DCMS stated, “We want the UK’s fantastic performers and other creative professionals to be able to tour abroad easily. That is why we tabled ambitious proposals during negotiations with the EU. Our recent trade deal with the three EFTA countries was based on the same offer and shows it is workable. We, as government, have spoken to every EU Member State about the issues facing our creative and cultural industries when looking to tour in Europe”.
Talks are ongoing with the remaining EU nations; the DCMS has stated, “We are now actively engaging with the remaining EU Member States that do not allow visa and permit free touring, and calling on them to align their arrangements with the UK’s generous rules, which allow touring performers and support staff to come to the UK for up to 3 months without a visa. Formal approaches via officials and DCMS Ministers have been made to Spain, Croatia, Greece, Portugal, Bulgaria, Romania, Malta, and Cyprus”.
What Has Been the Response of Those in The Music Industry?
As quoted in the NME magazine, David Martin, CEO of the Featured Artists Coalition, believes that the deal still puts musicians in the UK at a disadvantage compared to pre-2021; “It remains that the UK’s music industry is in a far less advantageous position now than it was pre-January…Despite the spin, this statement represents an admission of failure. Failure to fulfil the promises made by the government about securing our industry’s future during negotiations, failure to ‘fix’ the issue, as per the PM’s statement of March this year, and failure to provide certainty around touring in almost a third of EU countries, eight months after the music industry was dealt a ‘No Deal’ scenario”.
Others have been less scathing of the new announcement. Horace Trubridge, General Secretary of the Musicians Union, stated, “We welcome this news and the ongoing talks with the other eight EU member states. What we urgently need now is some movement on the cabotage and transport issues, particularly in relation to splitter vans”.
The NME also says that more clarity is needed on the effect of the changes on support staff and roadies and in relation to the issue of ‘cabotage’. The existing cabotage rules mean that trucks from the UK are permitted to only make one stop in an EU country, after which they have seven days to undertake no more than two haulage jobs before returning home to the UK. The government rules state, “You can carry out up to 2 haulage jobs within the EU after dropping off goods from the UK. Only one of the jobs can be cabotage. You must complete the cabotage job: within seven days of dropping off the goods you brought from the UK; in the same EU country where you dropped off the goods from the UK”.
What Are the Rules for EU Musicians in the UK?
Back in January 2021, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden explained to the NME magazine that the rules for EU musicians coming to the UK remain unchanged; “For now, the UK remains open for musicians to tour here, as it has always been. Artists, musicians, and entertainers from the EU don’t need a visa to give performances, take part in competitions or promotional activities”. He also clarified that musicians from the EU who come to the UK can stay for up to one month if they are paid or up to six months if they are only receiving expenses or claiming prize money.
The fact that the government is being forced to negotiate with individual EU member states post-Brexit will be seen by many as an acknowledgment that the UK’s decision to leave the EU is damaging our valued creative industries. It is likely that other special measures will be sought by the government from EU nations where other sectors have been disadvantaged by Brexit. We will keep you up to date if and when future EU immigration concessions are agreed upon.