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The Brexit deal made a terrible year for British music worse: we must lower barriers to touring

3 min read

Music is one of Britain's proudest exports. From artists that have made it big like Stormzy and Adele to university orchestras and the London Philharmonic, all musicians started somewhere. For so many, gigging in Europe has been a gateway to careers and music we can all be proud of. Our musicians entertain and delight audiences across the continent - or they have done up until now.

But the deal negotiated by Boris Johnson excludes touring musicians and all those who work behind the scenes to make a tour come together from lighting, sound, logistics - thousands of skilled professionals would be unable to work in Europe under these new rules. 

The agreement allows people to make visa-free business trips to the EU for 90 days in any given six-month period, but there are restrictions on the activities they can perform.

And since musicians don’t make the cut instead they face a situation with potentially each country asking for its own visa, that would be valid only for one trip creating a bureaucratic headache and costs that could be too much for some smaller or semi-professional outfits.

A petition started by freelance video technician Tim Brennan has already garnered the 100,000 signatures it needs to have the issue debated in parliament showing the strength of feeling within the music community and the wider public.

At last count more than 200,000 people were calling for a free cultural work permit to allow music touring professionals, bands, musicians, artists, TV and sports celebrities to tour the EU to perform shows and events.

Labour's amendment called on the government to back our cultural talent. 

Because, while the deal currently allows hunters and pollsters the right to work on the continent, - we believe the same opportunities should be afforded to musicians and other performers - as well as those who work behind the scenes.

Whatever the reasoning for excluding these skilled creatives, for many it tops off one of the worst years of their professional lives when they have been stopped from playing by the pandemic and excluded from the government’s rigid support schemes because of the nature of their work and it adds to the sense that they have not been a priority for the government.

Music is a huge export for the UK and touring and performing is now one of the main ways artists make money - so why would we erect barriers for them to make the most of the opportunities in Europe?

Likewise barriers to European musicians performing in the UK will hurt UK fans and mean we have to travel to see bands and orchestras we like.

Like many I can’t wait to get back to hearing live music - its absence has been a huge blow this year and I believe that allowing touring is one way we can help make the most of the opportunities that will hopefully come when the pandemic is over.

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