UK Government is pressed on EU travel for musicians

UK Government is pressed on EU travel for musicians


norman lebrecht

January 19, 2021

From today’s list of questions in the House of Lords:

Lord Berkeley of Knighton to ask HMG whether an offer was made by the European Union to the United Kingdom for visa-free touring for musicians in European Union member states; and if so, why any such offer was declined.



  • V.Lind says:

    It’s listed as an Urgent Question, which means it will be asked some time after Questions to the Foreign Minister — after 1:00 UK time.

  • Counterpoint says:

    As V. Lind clearly appreciates, but where there seems to be some confusion at SD, the Urgent Question in response to the petition on visa arrangements for UK musicians in the EU has been raised in the House of Commons (not the Lords). Everyone who signed the petition was advised of this overnight. Questions to DCMS Minister Caroline Dinenage commenced at 1pm and ran until about 1.45.
    In summary:
    The UK’s offer to the EU for visa/permit arrangements remains on the table.
    The UK will discuss bi-lateral arrangements with individual Member States.
    DCMS continues to liaise with relevant culture sector bodies and associations to disseminate knowledge and understanding of the rules applying in individual countries.

    • Christopher Clift says:

      It’s a shame that the EU’s offer to the UK doesn’t remain on the table.

    • V.Lind says:

      Thanks. My WiFi was down for 5 hours, so I missed it.

    • HugoPreuss says:

      Nope, the UK won’t negotiate “with individual Member States”. At what point will the Brexiteers finally realize that for these negotiations there are no individual states but one and only one plain and simple European Union? Its address is in Brussels and it has phone numbers. Use them if you want to negotiate something. Don’t bother ringing up Berlin and Paris and Den Haag individually.

      • Counterpoint says:

        The surrender of sovereignty to a very expensive, unelected bureaucracy is exactly what the British voted against. It is the EU we rejected, not Europe and Europeans. The democratic deficit and the disconnect between those who make decisions and those they preside over is what I cannot reconcile and outweighs the benefits of membership. Anyway, there is scope for the UK to negotiate with individual countries as a third party state because this a Schengen matter over and above confined to EU member states only.

        • HugoPreuss says:

          That is both perfectly okay and at the same time completely unrelated to my point. Of course the UK was free to leave the EU; nobody ever denied that. And yet, its negotiation partner now is the EU, not is individual member states. Trying a different route did not work during the Brexit negotiations, and it won’t work now. Which is the sovereign decision of the EU members…

        • Dominic Field says:

          No there isnt! The eu is an entity in itself. You cannot do a unilateral deal with any member country.

  • Robert King says:

    In today’s House of Commons urgent questions, a pertinent one from Pete Wishart showed that there is nothing useful to those thousands of UK musicians who used to earn nearly half their living touring the EU and now face almost impossible financial and logistical mountains if orchestras, choirs and ensembles are to continue to be able to go to Europe to perform.

    This isn’t the big earning pop stars with huge managements, it’s the freelance section violinist, the jobbing chorus tenor, the freelance tour manager, the second flute, all earning perhaps £150 a day. They can’t afford to take half an unpaid day to go to each embassy in turn, and pay for a visa for each country (e.g. the fee for a German visa is now €80, plus a mountain of paperwork in advance) so that they can go to that country for a day and earn £150 for playing a concert. Across an orchestra, all those £150s from France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Spain etc used to add up and bring millions back into the UK economy: a winner for the UK as a whole, as well as creating significant employment (not just for the musicians, but for all the logistics along the way). So it seems a shame that instead of getting out and renegotiating this missed opportunity with the EU (for a something that was promised throughout the negotiations), the government now turn to talk about “whether any support can be put forward at a future fiscal event”.

    The exchange is on YouTube at and it is also reported in today’s Belfast Evening Telegraph at (The full text of that report comes below):

    A minister said “the door is open” if the EU was willing to “consider the UK’s very sensible proposals” on visa arrangements for musicians.

    Culture minister Caroline Dinenage said the EU rejected the UK’s plan, but said the Government is willing to discuss the situation again.

    The UK’s post-Brexit travel rules, which came into force on January 1, do not guarantee visa-free travel for musicians.

    SNP MP Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) said musicians are being treated as “mere collateral” by the Government.

    Referring to his days touring in Europe with the band Runrig, Mr Wishart told the Commons: “Touring Europe means everything to our artists and musicians. The thrill of that first tour, crammed into the Transit van with all your gear, four to a room in a cheap hotel in Paris, Rotterdam or Hamburg. Using what’s left of the fee for a post-gig beer. The dream that when you come back it will be a lavish tour bus, staying in five-star hotels. Gone, all gone. Musicians and artists mere collateral in this Government’s obsession in ending freedom of movement.”

    Responding to the urgent question, Ms Dinenage said: “This is incredibly disappointing news for the music sector, it is not the deal that we wanted. But I’m afraid that in many other senses he (Mr Wishart) has fallen for some very selective briefing. The EU did not offer a deal that would have worked for musicians. It’s quite simple, the EU in fact made a very broad offer which would not have been compatible with the Government’s manifesto commitment to take back control of our borders.”

    She added: “Let’s focus on the future, if the EU is willing to consider the UK’s very sensible proposals then the door is open… I am very happy to walk through it. I will be the first one through that door.”

    Ms Dinenage said the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will speak to the Treasury about support for the industry.

    Responding to Labour MP Mary Kelly Foy (City of Durham), Ms Dinenage said: “As ever, we want to make sure that our music industry is supported. We supported them with the cultural recovery fund and Arts Council England have a whole range of grants and financial support on offer. But in terms of this particular issue, we’ll be speaking to colleagues in the Treasury to see whether any support can be put forward at a future fiscal event.”

    Ms Dinenage said a 90-day visa-free travel period for musicians was not offered by the EU.

    Labour former minister Ben Bradshaw said: “The minister and Conservative MPs keep claiming that they made this fantastic offer but we can’t test that can we, because they haven’t published it? The EU has, it is there in black and white – and on page 171 of the draft agreement from March last year allowing 90-day visa-free touring by British musicians and other cultural activities. So will the minister now publish the Government’s proposal so we can see where the truth lies?”

    Ms Dinenage replied: “Well I’d have to correct (Mr Bradshaw) because the document doesn’t say 90-days visa-free touring by UK musicians, it is a lot more opaque than that which is why couldn’t simply sign up to that because it would not have delivered what we needed for our musicians and just flew in the face of what the British public voted for in the case of controlling our borders. But, as I’ve already said, I’ll speak to colleagues across BEIS and the Home Office to see what more we can publish on the details of the negotiations.”

  • Miko says:

    Why did the Association of British Orchestras retweet Caroline Dinenage’s dissembling blame shifting last week?
    Might they be too “invested” in the DCMS following cosy chats with Mr Dowden last year?
    We might be about to find out.

  • Doc Martin says:

    An Irish passport is yer only man! I do wish Hancock et al would wise up on travel and PCR tests are unreliable, they cannot determine if you are infectious. Only viral culture can confirm infectivity. They need to do viral culture with PCR at the same time. A positive PCR and negative viral culture, means the person has had cov-19 and recovered and is no longer infectious the PCR has detected a fragment of RNA from a previous infection. The person can then travel ok. PCR alone will be useless.

  • Susanne says:

    Well, that’s what you get with Brexit. The english voted with a majority to leave. Can’t have your cake and eat it, too. Free movement is gone for good.