An all-EU passport for musicians?

An all-EU passport for musicians?


norman lebrecht

February 23, 2020

The UK Musicians Union has put up a petition to the UK Government, calling for a special passport to be issued to musicians, allowing freedom of movemenet between the UK and EU.

So far, 71,700 have signed.

You can too, here.


  • Frenchmaninberlin says:

    I say NO. No special passports to anyone. No “special relationship”. This is what the UK has been doing in the UK: claim all the benefits, and have as little if the “obligations” (Schengen, Euro etc.) as possible. The citizens of the UK decided to give up the club membership and all the benefits that came with it, so that’s it. Europe needs to teach the lesson to the UK and to it’s current members: when you are out you are OUT.

    • Tim says:

      Wow, you place such emphasis on lines on a map…

      Music transcends borders and British talent deserves and needs to be shared.

      • Anon says:

        Wow. And British talent is so special that they deserve this privilege above all other nationalities?

        This is PRECISELY the astounding sense of entitlement of the British and British musicians of which I have spoken in this thread.

        • Adrienne says:


          I suggest you examine the history of France’s relationship with the EU, and the CAP in particular.

          • Anon says:

            I’m afraid I don’t know what CAP refers to, and I can’t find it trying to google it. Can you explain, please?

            No, I am not familiar with the UK’s relationship with France. I live and work in another EU country where my French orch. colleagues are foreigners just like me and expect no special privileges. France also did not vote to leave the EU.

            I do see, however, quite a few examples outside of my orchestra of British tourists who exhibit an appalling sense of entitlement in their apparent belief that they can behave like hooligans the moment they set foot outside of their own country. And that’s being going on long before Brexit. I don’t see any French tourists behaving that way.

          • Adrienne says:

            Appalling generalisation on your part.

            No shortage of bad behaviour in Paris these days. I know, I live there most of the time but foreign tourists, British or otherwise, are in no way responsible. Perhaps your local news agencies prefer to ignore it – rather like the BBC.

            CAP stands for Common Agricultural Policy, and French dissatisfaction with the EU is increasing. I’d give it ten years at the most in anything like its present form. The British have got it right.

          • Anon says:

            If the French wish to behave badly in Paris, that is their perogative. It’s their city. I’d certainly have no objection if the British just misbehaved in London. But that’s not what’s happening.

            Thank you for the CAP explanation. Since it’s, as you say, 10 yrs. down the road, it’s not really germane to this particular conversation.

          • Allen says:

            Adrienne has a point.

            You you really think it’s acceptable to refer to “the British” in this way? In Britain, a minority of men from E Europe have a problem with alcohol. This becomes serious when they get behind the wheel of a car, but I would never smear their nationality in the way that you have done, or do it anonymously. My full name is Allen Bowen and colleagues know that I post here.

            You chose to attack an attitude of “entitlement” amongst a small number of musicians who, being Remainers, are once again trying to make a political point; I don’t think for one minute that they expect it to succeed. You then extrapolated this to “the British” in a way that is totally unacceptable. I think Adrienne’s point is that, if you want an example of gross “entitlement”, look no further than some members of the French agricultural industry. That is equally “germane”, but I find it surprising that you can defend the EU when you have not even heard of the CAP.

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      That’s not a question of ‘special relationship’, that’s a question of giving privileges to a certain group. Musicians are not ‘aristocrats’.

  • Peter says:

    How does the photo (of a Chinese string quartet ?) relate to this story ?

    • Brettermeier says:

      That’s Incheon Airport, South Korea. So I wouldn’t rule out them being South Korean… 😀

      (You still got a point, though.)

  • Anon says:

    Yeah, but this is very heavily weighted towards UK musicians wanting to work in the EU, not the other way around. Without reciprocity, this is VERY prejudical against EU musicians. It potentially threatens opportunities for them.

    EU musicians are already expressing big concerns that the UK is big on defending their right to work in the EU and have no interest whatsover (or maybe just lip service) in allowing the privilege to EU musicians wanting to work in the UK.

    There is a tremendous sense of entitlement with UK musicians who feel they should be able to work wherever they want to. Yet the UK makes it practically impossible for foreign musicians to work in the UK.

    And, please, no whining from the UK about “how hard it is to work in the US”. GIve me a break. There are horror stories galor about non UK musicians being literally turned away at UK airport entry points for simply carrying a musical instrument! Conference presenters, convention attendees, educators and non paid performers from non UK countries (Japan, the US and Canada are the cases I specifically know about) have been held, detained and sent back to their home countries and treated like criminals, just for trying to enter the UK for unpaid engagements.

    And yet, somehow, UK players want the right to play whereever they want with no restrictions. No.

    • Frenchmaninberlin says:

      Exactly. The history of the UK in the EU has always been “gimme, gimme, gimme”, and when it is time to show that they are members of the club they always gave problems. There is NOTHING good for EU musicians in this idea, so most likely the answer will be NO, and I am happy that it is that way.

      • Tim says:

        I think you need to talk to more British musicians – your comments are completely unreflective or their opinions.

        We have always welcomed EU musicians here, both as visiting artists and also in our orchestras.

        While your anger is clear and tangible it strikes me as misdirected and ill informed.

        • Anon says:

          British musicians may indeed feel that they are welcoming to non UK musicians (and there is no distinction now between EU and non EU. They are all just “non UK” now.) but the rules of the govt which serve them are not.

          The experiences of non UK musicians being turned away at airport UK entry points are people I know, people scheduled to present at conferences I was attending, direct and indirect musical colleagues. It is not at all an “ill informed” observation.

          I live in the EU. I am a musician working here. I have also been held at your border and interrogated mercilessly. I am following the press in my country on this topic. The musicians in my country strongly feel that the UK wants special rights for their musicians to work here without reciprocating. No.

      • Anon says:

        Bravo. You are spot on, Frenchmaninberlin. I second your opinion.

      • Wesley says:

        “The history of the UK in the EU has always been “gimme, gimme, gimme”, and when it is time to show that they are members of the club they always gave problems”

        What a pathetically ill-informed comment. Look up how much money the UK has paid the EU, as second-highest contributor. One thing the British can’t stand is ingratitude, and your post sums up why so many people voted to leave. Right now we’re laughing at the EU leaders panicking about what they’re going to do without all that British cash.

        • Rogerg says:

          The UK has been the second contributor? You are very misinformed. The contribution per country to the EU budget (2007-2013) has been:

          France 17.76%
          Germany 19.9% Italy 13.47%
          UK 10.70%
          Spain 9.15%

  • FrauGeigerin says:

    Why would the EU agree to such thing? It benefits, mostly, UK musicians as it would give them access to the massive EU classical music market, and, in reciprocity, it is not as interesting for EU musicians. The UK decided to leave, and – as sad as it makes me – now it is time to “enjoy” the consecuences.

  • Leopold says:

    Nope. They left the EU. Very sad and a shame, but that’s it. No special treatment like before. Goodbye!

  • Anon says:

    Here’s one report in the Spanish press about how the UK will be treating non UK musicians.

    This article advises Spanish musicians that the UK Home Office has issued an edict that as of Dec. 31, 2020, any EU musician who wants to come to the UK for a tour, performance, workshop, conference, etc, will be required to hold a “Level 5” visa, which they must apply for 90 days in advance and which will cost approximately 292 euros.

    Here’s the article.

    And yet somehow UK musicians are expecting carte blanche to be able to work in the EU??!!! No way.

  • CRMH says:

    The EU meeting left in disruption yesterday, because it does not know how to cope without the UK’s contribution of c. 75 million Euros. The EU is consequently in complete disarray, which promises to be permanent. Let us not delude ourselves that musicians’ passports are important to either side.

  • Willymh says:

    As much as I love music why should musicians be singled out? What about other professions and professionals?

  • IC225 says:

    All you pro-EU British musos out there reading these comments, seeing how your lovely, tolerant, inclusive EU pals love and respect you? It’s a self-interested protectionist bloc; what a surprise to see self-interested, exclusionary sentiments, all dished up with a side-order of blinkered moral superiority. Seems that all those EU flag berets haven’t convinced them…

    • HannawithH says:

      When the UK was part of the club, everyone wanted the benefits for every citizen of every member country, including the UK.

      It is like a divorce. When it is over, it is over: your husband cannot come to use the swimming pool of your building (he does not live here anymore!), cannot use your Netflix account (he doesn’t pay for it!), does not a key of your new car. Things were different when there was a marriage: we had things in common, and we shared everything. Now the husband decided he wanted to end it, and he cannot expect me to say how wonderful he is, and have all the benefits he got just because we were once married.

  • Gustavo says:

    Once and for all: no cherry-picking!

  • Symphony musician says:

    The irony is that UK musicians are overwhelmingly in favour of EU membership and are therefore largely devastated at losing all the benefits of membership.

    • Anon says:

      You make an excellent point. But unfortunately, now that it’s a done deal, perhaps UK musicians can keep in mind how their colleagues in the EU might react to their demands to be able to work in the EU.

      They need to be respectful of our wishes, our rights in the EU, not just their own. It’s a 2 way street. For what they are asking they need to offer something to us in the EU. That reciprocity must be made VERY clear if they are to have our support.

  • Maria says:

    Why a special passport for just British musicians and not other professions? I am a professional musician and wouldn’t sign this. Musicians travelled to the continent of Europe to work long before the Common Market or the EU, and further afield very happily – even Russia as my own teacher did, but then there was far more paid work around in those days. Get a Visa like anyone else, or get an Irish passport if you have had an Irish grandparent. The big American orchestras have been coming to the London Proms for years. You don’t hear them whingeing but make it happen! We voted to leave as the one country of the United Kingdom, and now we have so we now have to get on with and see beyond Europe, and make it a great opportunity not a time of doom and gloom. We also have the Commonwealth – except the Irish Republic left it.

    • Hilary says:

      It’s important to brave the many disadvantages of Brexit head-on. It was a vote to be worse off and that sensation needs to be experienced to the fullest possible extent.

      • Allen says:

        “and that sensation needs to be experienced to the fullest possible extent.”

        Anf there you have it – pure malice towards people you disagree with.

    • Gess says:

      Scotland was 62% remain.
      Heading towards Little Britain I’m afraid.

  • Wise Guy says:

    What could go wrong? The number of
    “musicians” would certainly increase a thousand-fold.