UK government willing to re-open negotiations with EU over “visa-free” touring

A government spokesperson denied claims they had rejected a deal

12.01.21

Words by: Billy Ward

The UK government have denied reports that they rejected a “visa-free” touring deal for musicians, stating that they are willing to re-open negotiations with the EU in order to find a solution.

Over the weekend it was revealed that Britain had turned down a “standard” proposal that would exempt performers from needing a visa to enter countries in the EU for trips under 90 days, according to a report by The Independent.

News of the deal, which was reportedly turned down because the UK did not want to give the same freedoms to EU artists visiting the UK, caused widespread backlash among members of the music industry, who felt they were being disregarded in the government’s plans.

The Independent’s source said: “The UK refused to agree because they said they were ending freedom of movement. It is untrue to say they asked for something more ambitious.”

However, a government spokesperson has since denied these claims: “This story is incorrect and misleading speculation from anonymous EU sources,” they told NME. “The UK pushed for a more ambitious agreement with the EU on the temporary movement of business travellers, which would have covered musicians and others, but our proposals were rejected by the EU.”

When asked about the “ambitious agreement” put forward, the spokesperson stated: “As suggested by the creative arts sector, the UK proposed to capture the work done by musicians, artists and entertainers, and their accompanying staff, through the list of permitted activities for short-term business visitors. This would have allowed musicians and support staff to travel and perform in the UK and the EU more easily, without needing work-permits.

“Unfortunately the EU repeatedly refused the proposals we made on behalf of the UK’s creative arts sector. We are clear that our door remains open should the EU change its mind. We will endeavour to make it as straightforward as possible for UK artists to travel and work in the EU.”

Although the spokesperson didn’t address the reported sticking point of EU performers gaining entry into the UK, CEO of the Featured Artists Coalition, David Martin, told NME that a solution now has to be made.

“It is great to see that this will exists, and they must now get on and deliver. Government is aware that the FAC and our colleagues across the industry are standing by to support in any way necessary to make this happen. There is no excuse.”

A petition calling for Europe-wide visa-free travel permits for touring professionals and musicians has received more than 250,000 signatures, meaning that Parliament will have to consider it for debate.

Read next: UK government must give the live music sector a “restart date”, report says