Britain and EU trade insults over musician visas

Britain and EU trade insults over musician visas


norman lebrecht

January 15, 2021

The British Government has sent the following version of events to all who signed a petition calling for musicians to be allowed to perform in the EU and the UK without having to obtain work permits. This is the UK story:

During our negotiations, we proposed measures to allow creative professionals to travel and perform in both the UK and EU, without needing work-permits. Unfortunately, the EU rejected these proposals.

The UK Government supports ambitious arrangements for performers and artists to be able to work and tour across Europe. In the negotiations with the EU, we were determined to get a good deal for British music because we recognise the value of this industry.

As negotiations began, we consulted extensively with the sector to find out what they needed from the negotiations. We listened to the experts in British music, including bodies like the Musicians Union, and reflected their views in our proposal to the EU.

During our negotiations with the EU, we sought a mutually beneficial agreement that would have allowed performers to continue performing across the continent without the need for work permits. Specifically, we proposed to capture the work done by musicians, artists and entertainers, and their accompanying staff through the list of permitted activities for short-term business visitors. This was a straightforward solution for our creative industries which would have benefited all sides.

The EU turned down our proposals on the basis that musicians were providing a service which they viewed as necessitating a work permit and/or visa.

This outcome is regrettable, however there is scope to return to this issue in the future should the EU change its mind. Meanwhile the UK Government will make the case for arrangements that make touring easier in the EU and also seek to signpost to guidance which will help UK business travelers navigate individual Member States’ immigration systems.

The UK remains open for musicians to tour here. Musicians and artists (and technical staff) traveling to the UK from non-visa national countries, which includes but is not limited to EU nationals, are able to carry out a number of activities relating to the music and touring industry without a visa. Visiting musicians to the UK may perform at events, make personal appearances, take part in competitions, promotional activities and auditions, for up to 6 months without the need for formal sponsorship or a visa if they are not being paid beyond expenses or prize money. They can also receive payment for appearances at permit free festivals for up to 6 months, or for up to one month for a specific engagement. Musicians and support staff who are being paid in the UK may also qualify for entry under the Tier 5 Creative Worker route, if they are sponsored by a UK entity licensed with UK Visas and Immigration for this purpose. Entry is for up to 12 months and the relevant rules also provide for accompanying dependents. Entry under the Tier 5 Creative Worker route is visa-free for non-visa nationals where entry is for no more than three months.

The deal delivers on the Government’s promise to take the UK out of the EU’s customs territory and to regain control of our borders. This means there will be new customs processes on goods headed from GB into the EU and vice versa. These processes ensure that customs authorities remain able to protect their regulatory, security and financial interests. As part of this, ATA Carnets can be used for temporary imports of some goods, including professional equipment, as an alternative to facing full customs controls. This is already an option for temporary goods movements from the UK to many other non-EU countries. It reflects the established international approach in line with the ATA and Istanbul Conventions.

The Government recognises the importance of touring for UK musicians and other creative professionals, and has engaged extensively with the creative industries and arts sector since the announcement of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement to ensure they are aware of the new requirements. Going forward, we will continue our close dialogue with the creative and cultural sectors to ensure that they have the support they need to thrive.

We are also taking all steps we can to make the new processes as straightforward as possible for UK artists performing across the continent. Through negotiations with the EU we secured Transparency and Procedural Facilitation measures that will help ensure visa processes are as prompt and smooth as possible. The Agreement also contains provisions that promote efficient customs arrangements and we are working to make it easier to apply for and use ATA Carnets.

Furthermore, the Government is taking unprecedented action to help the music sector during the crisis. We’ve provided £1.5 billion of direct support for arts across the UK, the biggest one off investment ever, and a sum that far exceeds what’s been provided in other countries. That builds on billions more coming from furlough, the self-employed income support scheme and other government support.

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said yesterday the result was one of the ‘inevitable consequences’ of Brexit.

‘I very much regretted that the British didn’t have more ambition for people’s mobility,’ he told reporters. ‘From last March, we made fairly ambitious proposals in terms of mobility, including for specific categories such as journalists, performers, musicians and others,” he went on. “But you need to be two to make a deal.’

The truth probably lies somewhere in between, at the bottom of the Channel.

For musicians, Brexit is, at this point, a disaster.



  • Rogerio says:

    We have a saying in our country;
    “when the alms is very big, the poor man gets suspicious.”
    I would say in this case; “when the explanation is very big, there is something the explainer wants to hide from you.”

  • Alan says:

    For musicians?

    Give it a year and see where your shiny new sovereignty has gotten you.

  • V.Lind says:

    And it ‘s not a disaster for truckers, who can’t even carry a packed lunch? For financial services, which are transferring to Frankfurt and elsewhere? And very likely soon for people who like to eat a varied menu? And it can hardly be good for Scottish fishermen, who apparently can’t sell into Europe at the moment.

    Brexiteers have not been lucky in having been stuck with a series of incompetent Tory leaders, whose combined negotiating skills could not negotiate them across a street with a green light. I remember that last awful year before 2020, 2016, when our world was rocked with the Brexit referendum result and the election of the Orange Menace. I remember saying to someone at the time that they were both disastrous, but that at least the American nightmare would be finite — but the British one would last forever.

    I’m not opposed to having British courts the determiners of British fates, and I was always opposed to freedom of movement as offered under the terms of the EU. But as the campaign was conducted, and then the debates began, I was disturbed by the lack of truth or intelligence applied to the ramifications.

    It may all shake down okay in time, if there is enough good will on both sides. I think it is there, at root, but the EU is feeling wounded by the withdrawal of a major member and is exercising a little quite understandable pique at the

    • M McAlpine says:

      People like you are hilarious in that you apparently want to deny the results of a democratic vote.

      • V.Lind says:

        I don’t want to do any such thing. There were strong cases to be made on both sides of the referendum question, as the relatively close split of the votes indicated. But once Brexit won, it was clearly there to stay, and I could only wish that PMs May and Johnson had been better negotiators in securing the best possible deal for the UK. I think the quality of debate on the potential deals was very poor, not least exemplified by the recent admission of the Defra minister that she had not read the trade agreement.

        As for the campaign, I think Johnson’s figures about what the EU cost Britain and what would be given to the NHS upon Brexit were long ago proven to be not only false but made in bad faith.

      • Brettermeier says:

        “People like you are hilarious in that you apparently want to deny the results of a democratic vote.”

        There’s a difference between denying the results of a democratic vote and saying it’s a bad outcome.

      • William Safford says:

        The very topic of NL’s post, is a result of a UK democratic vote.

        The UK wants to have its cake and eat it too.

        The EU, less so.

        I am sympathetic to UK musicians, especially those who voted Remain. That notwithstanding, elections have consequences, alas.

    • Helen says:

      “And it ‘s not a disaster for truckers, who can’t even carry a packed lunch? For financial services, which are transferring to Frankfurt and elsewhere?” and “varied menu”?

      Remainers are devastated that trucks are not queueing up at Dover so they harp on about packed lunches. Pretty pathetic.

      Other than EU financial organisations that were inevitably going to move out of the UK on Brexit, do you have any evidence of the City being weakened? Very difficult to assess, I should think, so early and with Covid having an impact. The usual remainer sources (eg: FT) see doom and gloom of course, but the Far East, which is the region that matters these days, does not.

      The Euro scare stories based on wishful thinking by little Europeans all over again.

      • Counterpoint says:

        It was inevitable that not every trading and business relationship between the UK and the EU would be perfect in the first days and weeks of the UK leaving the EU. I dare say there were administrative problems and inefficiencies in 1973 as a consequence of the UK joining the Common Market, not least for some of our long-standing trading partners outside the Common Market, such as Commonwealth nations, but no one remembers that.

        I find the similarity between hard-line ‘Remoaners’ and ‘Trumpists’ striking.
        1. Obfuscation at the result of the 2016 EU membership referendum and 2020 Presidential election respectively.
        2. Recourse to the Courts to circumvent the democratic result.
        3. Mass demonstrations.
        4. Insults thrown at the members of the electorate who happened to hold an opposing view.
        5. Manufacture of project fear and fake news. On the UK leaving the UK has the £Sterling collapsed? NO. Has the Stock Market collapsed? NO. Has it been necessary to add 5p to the basic rate of income tax? NO. Are there miles of lorry queues at the Channel ports? NO. Has the City of London migrated to the Continent? NO.

        On the other hand, has the UK been able to develop a cheap, effective and efficient vaccine against COVID 19 and distribute it to its citizens without the burden of EU cumbersome red-tape and production quotas? YES.

        Having written all that, the situation with visas and permits for musicians and artists can be improved without compromising the integrity of the Single Market on the EU’s part and the independence of the UK to control its borders on the other. We should calmly and rationally encourage our elected representatives to find that improved outcome as soon as possible.

      • Craig says:

        Extreme levels of cope going on here, Helen. Other than companies literally deserting the City for Europe, weakening it and moving to better markets, you ask for more evidence?! ‘What have the Romans ever done for us’ comes to mind. One day reality might hit you, as it is slowly hitting others around the country who wished for a better future outside the EU and got the worst loss of power on the world stage since Suez. Enjoy your sunny uplands.

  • The UK government has denied claims that they rejected a deal from the EU that would allow musicians to enter countries that belong to the union without a visa.

  • Maria says:

    Exactly what Barnier sai – us Brits wanting to have our cake and eat it! All this is no surprise. If there’s any work over there or here after Covid, just get a visa or a visa waiver like America. It’s what it is, we’ve left, and it applies to everyone, and a result of Brexit that Britain voted for. No, we can’t have our cake and eat it, and then whinge!

    • maestrolive says:

      Dear Maria, it’s clear you haven’t had to obtain a performance visa in the US in recent times. You cannot legally perform or provide management support to an artist or tour in the US on a visa-waiver.

  • Tony says:

    Obfuscation, waffle and blame-game. With the icing on the cake of the customary pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey mantra: “blame Brussels”. The UK Government’s approach had been fundamentally flawed from Day One.

    The net result is that we are all still in the same mess with no prospect of change.

    Not just authorisation to work, but the requirement for ATA carnets for temporary importation into the EU for our tools of trade. Both are a pain, and both cost time + money.

    I wrote to my MP who emailed me yesterday to say we would just “have to agree to differ”. Easy for him to say.

  • DB says:

    The truth somewhere in the middle? You must be joking! If they hadn’t pushed through with this whole Brexit nonsense, there wouldn’t have been a problem to start with. Nobody forced the UK to leave or to renegotiate existing deals! They are to blame the whole way for this one.

    • Edoardo says:

      I was writing the same…the more the (unforecasted) consequences of BREXIT start to appear the more it seem the BREXIT rhetoric to blame it on EU, like if UK was kicked out…

      I also understood that EU had offered conditions to UK musicians but UK was not inclined to offer the same treatment to EU musicians and here is where the negotiation stopped.

      And as somebody already noted: preparation and negotiation skills play a big role here and it was pretty clear from the beginning of this awful and sad mess called BREXIT that there was not abundance of such skills on the English side.

      And in the end is a loss for everybody, musicians and non musicians.

  • George says:

    Could somebody summarize what it says in 2-3 sentences? I got lost reading through all of it.

    UK musicians need a visa and/or working permit when performing in Europe and vice versa?

    • Anon says:

      “You musicians – remoaners the load of you – have been shafted by those perfidious Europeans. Don’t blame us, guv. Never mind, we’re sure you’ll get to grips with the paperwork, it’s just teething trouble. And we’re quite happy for EU musicians to come over and perform on easy terms. What? They’re taking your jobs? Tough. You should have thought of that before you voted to remain.

  • Alexander Hall says:

    “The truth probably lies somewhere in between”. Sorry, but I don’t buy that. Not from this government of pathological liars headed by the nation’s Liar-in-Chief, the Great Bloviator himself. How can anyone believe a single word of what these gangsters put out?

  • sam says:

    The truth lies in the fact that whatever Boris rejected, he must have rejected it with the implicit approval of British musicians: the issue is visa free PAID work, do British musicians really want European musicians flooding Britain, any more than British fishermen wanting European fishing boats invading British waters…

    • Colin says:

      “Do British musicians really want European musicians flooding Britain?”

      Speaking as a non-musician, and not connected with the music business, was this a problem during our EU membership, and what would change now (if such arrangements are reciprocal?

      I only ask.

    • Steven Holloway says:

      Implicit in your comment is the notion that Boris had so acquinted himself with the world of music, and classical in this case, that he knew his rejection of the EU proposal had the unspoken approval of British musicians. And this you say is a ‘fact’ in which lies the ‘truth’! Well, I see someone here who’s succumbed to Post-Modernism. I also see someone who is utterly unversed in Epistemology. A lot for you to learn about truth, fact, belief, falsehood, etc., from studying that branch of Philosophy.

    • psq says:

      “The truth is …”, really? How do you know?

      “ … he must have rejected it with the implicit approval of British musicians.”
      Are they the same British musicians who have signed the petition against the undesirable result of the visa negotiation?

      There are more opportunities outside the UK on the continent for Brit musicians than the British Isles offer them, i.e., a no-visa arrangement is good for them than otherwise, same reason why so many signed the petition.

  • french horn says:

    “Brexit means brexit”. You wanted it, you have it ! The english people wanted to be separated from the evil “continentals” and now they are moaning about the consequences …

  • JussiB says:

    I thought the whole point of Brexit was for Britain to be self-sufficient, including their musicians who should stay in Britain and make Britain great again. But apparently all they’re thinking are mercenary thoughts of how to making more money on the other side.

  • fflambeau says:

    The truth is that the Europeans don’t want Brits and distrust them and vice versa. Read your Agath Christie to see how “foreigners” are treated and seen in the UK.

  • Europa says:

    From a European point of view …. if I may use an analogy with a train ride , The U.K. had always in its imperialistic way wanted first class status on the EU train AND a say in the destination without wanting to pay its full fare or be part of the loyalty programme. Now they’ve gotten off the train, they STILL want to dictate terms to the train driver !!! I’m so saddened that artists now have to get visas to work temporarily in the EU but everyone knew that this was to be the case. Mendacity Boris Johnson didn’t even read the final deal! To now demand extraordinary treatment for one set of services providers and ignore others is simply unacceptable. The deal signed is it. You can’t buy an upgrade for a seat you refuse to pay for. Harsh but true.

    • Counterpoint says:

      Most mainland European members (with the Baltic States and Greece noble exceptions) have not paid their fair share into NATO for decades, relying on the US and UK for their safety. No change there! Good luck with the idea of a single European army that Macron and others are so keen on. Who’s going to pay for that and how will Russia react to this? But of course, the EU is utopia on Earth: it will be fine!

  • christopher storey says:

    Dear fflambeau, and others . You may not want Brits, but without us and our forefathers, you would not be here! Just something to go away and reflect on for a little while