Brexit deal an ‘existential threat’ to the careers of touring musicians, David Frost warned

Lords committee urges Brexit minister to finally listen to ‘compelling’ evidence of careers at risk

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 19 October 2021 16:07
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Sir Elton John calls for help for young musicians amid EU touring row

Touring musicians face an “existential threat” to their careers from the huge costs and red tape imposed by the Brexit deal, a parliamentary inquiry has found.

A stinging letter to David Frost, the Brexit minister, implores him to listen to “compelling” evidence from performing artists who face being forced to give up on the industry they love.

The alarm is raised over obstacles in obtaining visas and work permits in the EU, over transporting equipment across borders and over the problems facing artists coming to the UK to perform.

Backing an industry warning of “an existential threat”, the Lords European Affairs Committee warns it “is so severe as to force many performers out of the sector”.

The government is condemned for a preferring to “pursue headlines rather than deal with the very serious issues accurately and substantively”.

And, the committee concludes: “This not only risks substantial damage to an important sector of the UK economy, but may also undermine the government’s vision of a global Britain using its soft power to advance its interests internationally in the post-Brexit era.”

The criticism comes after months of ministers refusing to approach the EU to negotiate a visa-waiver scheme, which – as The Independent revealed – the UK rejected last year.

The Society of Musicians has warned of many tours being “unviable”, its survey revealing 42 per cent of artists would consider quitting the UK in order to rescue their careers.

Boris Johnson made a high-profile pledge to “fix” the crisis, but Lord Frost – the minister he put in charge – appeared to wash his hands of the issue and refused to say it would be resolved.

Ministers were then attacked, including by Elton John, for wrongly claiming 19 of the 27 EU countries are offering visa and work permit-free access, when severe restrictions still exist.

Labour has since vowed to end the stalemate, by opening its own negotiations with the European Commission and other bodies, to try to revive a deal.

In its letter, the Lords committee, said the music industry felt ignored by ministers who “lacked sufficient understanding of the issues” facing it.

“The government is putting performers at risk and failing to take the decisions and steps necessary to support the creative industries,” it warned.

Yet they are “of comparable size to the UK’s construction industry”, with the music industry alone worth £5.8bn a year and employing more than 100,000 people.

Lord Kinnoull, the committee’s chair, said: “The creative sector is important not just to the economies of the UK and other countries concerned but also the enjoyment and wellbeing of people.

“It is important that the government rebuild trust with the creative industries and provide the support they need to adjust to the post-Brexit era.”

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