Only EU country signs deal to save post-Brexit music tours, despite Boris Johnson vow to ‘fix’ crisis


Only one of the 27 EU countries has reached an agreement to save post-Brexit musical tours despite Boris Johnson’s wish to “fix” the crisis, protests an industrial group.

The prime minister took the pledge under pressure 9 months ago – but only Spain has signed a deal since, leaving artists to drown in costly ‘mountains of red tape’.

Now the Incorporated Society of Musicians is urging Liz Truss, the new Brexit minister, to reject the hard-line approach of her predecessor, David Frost, who failed to make “progress.”

“All the problems identified in the first place for the creative sector due to the TCA [the Brexit trade deal] still remain, ”said a letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

In an article for The independent, opera singer Sarah Connolly describes the grim plight of touring artists as “a weeping, pale, undercooked, slippery slick.”

“2022 is a year that many players in the creative industries will view with concern,” writes Dame Sarah.

“Omicron is on the rise and the problems with the Brexit deal from 12 months ago are still on the rise today. My message to the government for the new year is ‘listen to us’.

The trade deal saw the UK – as The independent revealed – rejecting an EU offer to keep touring visa-free and permit-free, breaking a promise made to music organizations last year.

In March, Mr Johnson, facing serious problems getting documents to carry and transporting equipment across EU borders, told MEPs: “We have to fix this”.

But Lord Frost – the minister he appointed – appeared to wash his hands of the crisis and refused to say it would be resolved, before leaving cabinet.

Ministers were then attacked, including by Elton John, for falsely claiming that 21 of the EU’s 27 countries offer visa-free and work-permit-free access, while severe restrictions still exist in nearly all of them.

In its letter, the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), representing 11,000 members, urges Ms Truss to change course and relaunch negotiations with EU states, while calling for a visa waiver deal with Brussels.

“The industry is now faced with mountains of red tape, which are both expensive and time consuming,” warns Deborah Annetts, its CEO.

“The proposed solutions such as bilateral agreements with EU states have not materialized outside Spain and there are serious problems with cabotage, carnets and designated ports.

“All of these issues are having a negative impact on the UK music industry and the creative industries at large, which account for £ 116 billion a year, along with finance or construction.”

To add anger, Nadine Dorries, the Culture Secretary, quickly claimed credit for the deal with Spain, allowing British musicians to work 90 days out of 180.

But industry insiders insist that organizations like the Association of British Orchestras and their Spanish counterparts have done most of the negotiation – and that doesn’t cover transport.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has been asked to respond to the criticisms made in the letter.

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