Simon Rattle leads Brexit failure chorus

Simon Rattle leads Brexit failure chorus


norman lebrecht

January 20, 2021

Simon Rattle and Elton John lead a pack of 100 musicians calling on the Government, via a letter to the Times, to renegotiate free movement for British musicians in the European Union.

These are the signatories:

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


The letter is much shorter:

Sir, 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.

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 UK and British venues wishing to host them, the deal should be reciprocal.

Rattle is on his way to  new job in Munich.


  • buxtehude says:

    Headline news, stop the press: this government doesn’t “do what it said it would do…” Who knew?

  • M McAlpine says:

    ‘Brexit Failure’? Brexit has only just happened. Of course there will be things to be ironed out but we have to give it some years to judge whether it is a success or a failure. The EU might be judged a colossal failure in many ways over time in its huge mismanagement.

    • Counterpoint says:

      Already seeing one massive benefit: the UK has been able to approve COVID vaccines as an independent State and is not constrained in the quantity of vaccines it can obtain and distribute. Individual EU Member States are given allocations from the EU, which has centralised the ordering process, according to relative population size of one country to another. So there is an additional constraint over and above supply and distribution. The Pfizer vaccine is made in Belgium, but the Belgian Government had its knuckles rapped for trying to circumvent the centralised bureaucracy of the EU and make a direct order to Pfizer.

    • Miko says:

      A few years to see “things ironed out”?
      Like my career? My child’s future prospects? The UK union?
      The only “ironing out” that is required is the reversal of this country’s single most damaging act of self inflicted vandalism, all slipped through on lies, fraud and billionaire’s self interest.

      • V.Lind says:

        Not saying I disagree with your bitterness, but it’s high time “Remainers” gave up any weird notion that Brexit can be “reversed” and acknowledge that it was achieved through democratic means. Otherwise, they are just the British equivalent of the Trumpistas.

        What needs to be done now is the sort of lobbying that yesterday’s Urgent Question and open letters like the one cited above embody. And it has to be kept up. That’s the hard bit, but between one thing and the other these days, it looks as if musicians and their supporters do have time to keep it up.

    • Duncan says:

      Giving it some years, as you suggest, is not an option for musicians and other artists who may need to perform in Europe in order to survive. The visa issue is quite simply a mess and needs to be sorted out now. I know personally some musicians who will be affected by this ruling and the future does not look very good for them with the current strategy in place. It’s easy to say that the government has other priorities but the fact remains that this could (probably will) affect cultural life in the UK. Like all things, it will no doubt recover in time, but in the meantime hundreds, even thousands of musicians and other artists will suffer needlessly. And, unless I am very much mistaken, it is the UK government who are causing the problem with the visa issue. The EU were willing to make a deal on this I believe.

    • Adrienne says:

      There’s no point in discussing this here, with people whose grip on reality is tenuous at best.

    • George Porter says:

      The extent of the damage caused by Brexit is only just beginning to be revealed.

      Much of it is still hidden by stockpiling and the Covid depression.

    • Anon says:

      You might have some years. A performer with a career doesn’t.

  • erich says:

    ….and the wretched, mendacious, incompetent PM simply ignored Ben Bradshaw’s question on the subject at PMQ’s today. The man is a disgrace.

    • Alexander Hall says:

      It’s the same with almost any question he’s asked, with the exception of his toadies who place prepared questions in advance. He can’t answer questions because he doesn’t know the answers. And he doesn’t know the answers because he can’t be bothered to find out. That’s why lying is so much easier. You just make it up all the time and hope nobody notices.

  • Peter B. says:

    Yes, but Rattle has ditched the UK, taking German citizenship and a new job, whereas the other signatories haven’t!

    • Christopher Clift says:

      As I understand things, Sir Simon Rattle has opted to acquire German citizenship, mainly for family reasons. He (through his agents) can easily afford visa costs without much if any inconvenience to his travel arrangements. And again, as I understand things, he can (and will) retain his British citizenship, thereby enjoying (if that’s the correct word) the best of both worlds.

    • Colin says:

      Rattle is a 66 year-old man, with three infant (i.e. non-adult) children brought up in Germany, deciding the course of the rest of his life. His British citizenship has been retained, his new job doesn’t start for another two years, and he has previously stated how essential access to the EU was, to continue an international career.

    • Miranda Green says:

      I don’t blame him. I’d do the same if I could.

  • Alasdair Yates says:

    Wasn’t one of the points of Brexit to stop free movement of people into the EU? Why are the likes of Daltrey now complaining that free movement has been stopped? Isn’t that what he was so vocal in demanding?

  • msc says:

    If one wants to be taken seriously, one would be wise not to start such a list with Roger Waters. I love Pink Floyd, but the man is a bit of an extremist whacko.

    • Sam McElroy says:

      Absolutely. He is the insane apologist of the truly evil Maduro regime, the raving madman who called for food and medicines NOT to be delivered to the starving and dying of Venezuela with his “Hands off Venezuela!” campaign. A dangerous moron.

      That said, I fully support this campaign.

    • PaulD says:

      Yeah, the flying pigs with Stars of David on them seen at his shows are a bit off-putting.

  • fflambeau says:

    There should be no doubt now, that Brexit was the major reason for Rattle’s decision to take up a new job in Munich.

  • fflambeau says:

    It’s also appropriate that this occurred on Trump’s last day in office. Trump and Brexit share a link; the traitor Nigel Farage.

  • A bassist says:

    The point that must be shouted from the roof tops is that when pressed on issues of musicians needing to travel to/from Europe after Brexit, MPs said there would be exemptions. A key MP in the leave campaign was Bernard Jenkin (himself a trained singer and former chorister), who promised a musicians passport. He has attempted to deliver this – but he has failed.

  • french horn says:

    It’s not “brexit’s failure’. It’s “brexit means brexit” ! We didn’t hear much Sir Simon when it mattered and now, it’s too late to complain.

  • Alexander T says:

    Sex Pistols on the list???
    Johnny Rotten was a very enthusiastic Brexiteer.

  • Alexander T says:

    Simon Rattle.
    The triumph of marketing over substance?

  • Alexander T says:

    How sadly predictable!
    Reality check: Europe has no shortage of top-level classical musicians.
    Continental audiences will manage perfectly well without British musicians who are the real losers.
    Ps: Roger Daltrey on the list??? LOL
    He should have thought of that before supporting Brexit.

  • Nothing as dangerous as an englishman who think’s he’s an intellectual.

  • V.Lind says:

    Well, one Norman Lebrecht has a good article on what might come out of all this in this week’s Spectator. As he seems to have been too modest to flag it himself, here it is:

    • Le Křenek du jour says:

      I have read the whole Spectator piece with increasing dismay, hoping that the venomous last sentence of Mr. Lebrecht’s post above might prove accidental.
      Well, the “venenum” was not “in cauda” this time, but surely present, with intent, and with a vengeance:

      ‘Rattle’s escape to the Munich Bierkellers is a warning to orchestras to shun air-mile maestros and recruit local.’

      I, for one, think the branding of Sir Simon as a “munichois” invidious; only my respect for our host prevents me from calling it insidious. And the “air-mile” boomerang is one that may come to haunt our distinguished author; one looks a little careless when the only obstacle to one‘s being hoist with one’s own petard is a lethal pandemic.

      But the actual “cauda” of the Spectator paper is not less toxic for being general:

      ‘What’s needed is a central figure, a musical tsar with Downing Street access, a new face who can water some green shoots and spread hope of revival.’

      Apart from the obsession with an autocratic figure lacking legitimacy and, by historical precedent, real power when the going gets rough, the merits of Number Ten access appear doubtful as long as the incumbent has the attention span of a whelk in a supernova and is spinning around his own axis faster than a gyrating pulsar.
      As for the ‘watering of green shoots’, if the Brexit campaign is any standard to go by, the Muses could be in for the robust but unsavory and entirely unsustainable method of the Gulliverian firehose.

    • buxtehude says:

      In this article NL chooses to see Brexit as forcing a healthy return to buying local in classical performance and authorship; he decries job-share conductors &c; he cites 1946, when the ranks of opera performers were rebuilt from scratch and the results acquired a local taste with bonhommie thrown in for free.


      But any survivors of those audiences of 1946 are now in wheelchairs at best. What percentage has been replaced? I’m afraid to guess. In the Lebrechtian future, today’s hard-pressed concert promoters — the people who have to somehow sell tickets And paper the house where they fail — will be without the hype value of international reputations, however ill-deserved.

      You can imagine the rest.

      I have a plan, at any rate. I am steeling myself against the hoots and cheers that will be thrown at my pseudonym and then I will reveal it.

    • buxtehude says:

      Make that “hoots and jeers,” not cheers