Ministers making ‘misleading’ claims about Brexit blow to music tours, Lords inquiry warns

‘There has been a lot of misleading information about the processes that someone needs to go through’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Friday 21 January 2022 16:33
<p>Liz Truss is urged to ‘urgently review’ claims that the crisis has eased   </p>

Liz Truss is urged to ‘urgently review’ claims that the crisis has eased

Ministers are making “misleading” claims about the costs and red tape facing performers trying to tour the EU after Brexit, a parliamentary inquiry says.

Liz Truss is urged to carry out an “urgent review” of repeated assertions that problems have been eased – as a committee of peers backs protests made by musicians, led by Elton John.

Their report rejects the departed David Frost’s attempt to wash his hands of the controversy – by arguing the culture department has responsibility – insisting the foreign secretary must take charge.

And it raises the alarm over the plight of young musicians, denied the chance to further their careers after the Brexit trade deal broke a promise to save visa-free touring

“We heard clear evidence that young classical musicians, in particular, were being forced out of the profession because they were no longer able to travel to a country (or countries) that is a member of the European Union for work at short notice,” a letter to Ms Truss states.

Elton John has led criticism of the government for claiming 21 of the 27 EU countries are offering visa and work permit-free access, when severe restrictions still exist.

The letter, from the Lords European Affairs Committee, points out that Austria requires a permit for visits longer than four weeks, with similar curbs in Belgium (21 days), the Czech Republic (7 days), The Netherlands (6 weeks) and Poland (30 days).

Charles Kinnoull, the committee’s chair, told The Independent: “Not only are government websites not accurate, but there has been a lot of misleading information about the processes that someone needs to go through beforehand.

“It’s incredible complex. Imagine wanting to perform in Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic – which is perfectly logical for a classical musician – there are three completely different regimes to go through.”

The non-affiliated peer said he hoped the placing of Ms Truss in charge of EU talks – after Lord Frost’s shock pre-Christmas resignation – will allow a “landing zone” to be found.

“This is something that is causing harm on both sides. Not only are British musicians unable to plan tours, but it is also damaging for European artists wanting to come here,” Lord Kinnoull added.

The Independent revealed that only Spain has agreed a new deal to ease post-Brexit tours, despite Boris Johnson’s vow to “fix” the crisis, made 10 months ago.

The trade deal saw the UK reject an EU offer to retain visa and permit-free tours, leaving artists mired in expensive “mountains of red tape”, the Incorporated Society of Musicians said.

No effort has been made at fresh talks with Brussels, although “cabotage” rules – to allow trucks to cross borders – are an EU matter.

The committee’s report states: “There is no legal impediment to the establishment of a sector-specific visa waiver programme and that this could be done in such a way as to ensure that the UK retains full control over its borders.

“The committee urges the government to reconsider its approach to a visa-waiver regime and to recognise that the decision to implement such a system is, in itself, an exercise of sovereignty.”

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