‘British music will die’ as touring difficult after Brexit

The end of EU free movement for British citizens post-Brexit means that British artists face visas, work permits and more for EU touring

3 March 2021
By Connexion journalist

Complications for British musicians touring in the EU have hit headlines, with Elton John and Sting signing an open letter to the UK government, but musicians here are also affected.

The signatories to the letter, published in The Times, said musicians had been “shamefully failed” by the Brexit deal.

They called on the UK to negotiate a separate deal to simplify the paperwork.

The end of EU free movement for British citizens means that British artists wanting to perform in EU countries where they do not live will now need visas and work permits.

They also need equipment carnets – customs documents – for each country they visit.

Rules will vary nation by nation so working abroad, especially if touring several countries, will be expensive and complicated.

As the issue is nationality, it also applies to British musicians living in France wanting to work in Spain or Italy, for example, as British citizens no longer have free movement to live and work across the EU. The Connexion spoke to reader Irene Babinet, 85, from La Rochelle, who previously wrote for us about fears regarding the potential impact of Brexit in autumn 2019, and partner Tony Bell.

Read more: Brexit will make musicians’ lives harder

He has been a bass player for many years, including jobs in Paris, Hamburg and Rome.

Ms Babinet confirmed that her fears have come true after nothing was included on this in the Brexit deals. Both sides have blamed the other for the lack of inclusion of any flexible rules.

“Covid is bad enough, but Brexit is an absolute disaster for musicians,” Ms Babinet said.

“The Musicians’ Union in the UK have very strong views on it. They had asked for a kind of musicians’ green card.

“There was a big Guardian article by Elton John, but it’s closing the door after the horse has bolted now.

“I don’t see the British government backing down on anything. In any case, people like him [Elton John] won’t have issues because he has a massive organisation to work out permits and visas and the cost of carnets.

“It will go back to how it was in the old days where musicians had to pay agents to do the bureaucracy so all they have to do is play their instruments. “Now we are out of the European Union, there is no facility to travel within the union easily.”

Mr Bell said: “The British have shot themselves in the foot. Not just on this but many things, such as the Erasmus scheme. I don’t think people were told the truth, and they were gullible.

“I feel disappointed for younger musicians starting out, and for the kids of today generally.

“As far as music is concerned, British music is going to die because people are not going to be able to work.”

He added that a local music venue which previously hosted British performers regularly is no longer booking them.

“It’s too expensive for them to come over now,” he said.

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