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Labour Says Government Response To Post-Brexit Touring Barriers Facing Musicians Is An "Insult"

4 min read

Exclusive: Labour has accused the government of insulting the music industry after a minister failed to explain how it planned to minimise post-Brexit barriers facing UK touring performers and their staff.

Labour last month wrote to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps warning that the restrictions on EU travel facing UK artists and their teams would inflict a “devastating blow” on their ability to tour the continent.

The letter, shared exclusively with PoliticsHome, warned the government that the post-Brexit arrangements would have “serious direct ramifications” for UK bands and artists hoping to tour in Europe once coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

The letter’s authors, Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Rachel Reeves and Shadow Minister for Green and Future Transport Kerry McCarthy, asked Shapps to explain what steps the government was talking to reduce “devastating” barriers to touring in the EU, and called on the government to renegotiate the arrangements with Brussels.

Under the new rules, hauliers carrying touring equipment around the EU will be limited to just two additional stops before returning to Britain, while the amount of time a British artist can spend in an EU member state will be determined by the law of each individual country. The latter means that performers might require individual visas to visit certain EU countries, which they would have to pay for.

However, the government’s response, seen by PoliticsHome, didn’t address any of the Labour’s questions and simply described the new arrangements.

The letter sent to Reeves and McCarthy today (Tuesday, February 2nd) by Transport Minister Baroness Vere of Norbiton said: “The Department is working closely with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to support the creative industries sector and to ensure that events hauliers are included in any work to support them.

“We are in regular dialogue with the industry via the Road Haulage Association and Logistics UK, and the Department will continue to communicate with the industry to ensure that they are updated on any support”.

McCarthy told PoliticsHome that the government response was an “insult” to performers, hauliers, and touring staff affected.

“The Government knew last year that the new rules for hauliers would be another devastating blow for the music and events industries, but didn’t think it was important enough to negotiate an exemption,” she said.

“This response is an insult to those whose jobs are now on the line and fails to answer a single one of our questions, or even mention the new rules.

“Ministers must now set out exactly what they will do to ensure there are no barriers to touring once Covid restrictions are lifted”.

Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator in Brexit talks with the UK, in an interview last month said the bloc made an "ambitious" offer allowing reciprocal, visa-free access for musicians and artists on both sides of the Channel in negotiations over their free trade agreement.

A draft text published by the EU nearly a year ago set out visa exemptions for “sportspersons or artists performing an activity on an ad-hoc basis."

However, a Downing Street spokesperson said the EU offer "fell short" of UK demands.

Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage later MPs that the EU offer would have breached the UK's red line to take control of its immigration policy after Brexit.

“It’s quite simple: the EU in fact made a very broad offer which would have not been compatible with the government’s manifesto commitment to take back control of our borders," she said.

The minister added that the EU offer "would not have worked" for the British industry, as it would have exempted performers but not their touring staff.

Over 100 artists, including Sir Elton John, Ed Sheran, and Peter Gabriel, last month signed a letter lambasting the government's "negotiating failure" to secure visa-free travel, and warning that the UK creative industry risked being cut adrift from the government if nothing was done.

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