British musicians’ mutiny against Brexit

  • Visas and other administrative requirements make it very difficult for British groups and singers to tour Europe, and vice versa

  • “It’s a shit show that the government could have prevented,” says Tim Burgess, leader of The Charlatans, in a situation that deals a severe blow to live music

Paris, Barcelona, ​​Milan, Berlin. The borders of Europe have been blocked for British musicians. The tours of multiple capitals are over without much effort. The freedom to go on stage one day here and another there is over. Acting on the other side of the English Channel now runs into a accumulation of obstacles that only artists of the highest level, like Adele, Coldplay o Ed Sheeran, they can cope. The same barriers are raised for Europeans who want to perform in the UK. The promises made by the British Government to facilitate the movement of artists have come to nothing. Musicians feel cheated, they see the black future, they ask for solutions and they are not willing to throw in the towel.

In the post-Brexit agreement, workers in some professions are allowed to travel for work reasons without applying for a visa. Musicians and their teams have been excluded from that group, already very touched by the coronavirus crisis, which has cut live performances. As of January 1, the British who want to act in an EU country must request a visa, show proof of savings and have a certificate from the event organizer, before crossing the border. The operation must be repeated in each of the 27 EU countries in which you want to act. A costly process, in money and time to comply with the bureaucracy, unfeasible for most bands or singers without enormous resources, who must move quickly and cheaply, from performance to performance.

250,000 signatures

“We musicians have been betrayed by the Brexit agreement,” he says Tim Burgess, singer of The Charlatans. “New bands are not going to be able to play outside the UK. It’s a shit show that the government could have prevented. We need to hold him accountable. We need the government to work hard for an industry [la musical] what gender 2.9 billion pounds in 2019. “Burgess is one of the signatories of a petition with already 250,000 endorsements demanding a” passport “for those in his profession, which avoids the obligation to request visas and other documents. Among the petitioners is Lois Tomlinson, from the One Direction group, Thom Yorke by Radiohead and Dua Lipa, along with many others. Parliament must now decide whether to debate the request.

British “rejection” to three months exemption

In the House of Lords, on behalf of the Government, Nicholas True maintained that the United Kingdom requested the inclusion in that visa-exempt list of “artists, musicians and those dedicated to the world of entertainment, together with the personnel who accompanies “, but that proposal, he added, “was unfortunately rejected by the EU.” Last Monday the newspaper ‘The Independent’ affirmed otherwise. The UK had asked during the post-Brexit deal negotiation for a 30-day waiver for its artists and performers, but rejected a broader 90-day waiver. The newspaper quoted an anonymous source in Brussels as claiming that it was the British Government that refused an EU “standard” proposal for artists, for a period of three months. The reason is that London wants to impose such strict controls on artists from the EU coming to the UK. “They said they were putting an end to freedom of movement. It is false that they asked for something more ambitious,” said the source, because “there has to be reciprocity. “ The finger points to the zeal against immigration of the Interior Minister, Priti Patel, eager for Europeans to go with their music elsewhere.

The outrage is superlative. “Counting on the government for anything is the biggest waste of time possible “, has declared John Giddings, the man in charge of the Isle of Wight Festival. “Brexit is going to seriously damage tours of Europe. If you have to import and export your equipment, in and out of each country, it will take longer. There will be more travel days and every day you are on the road you have the expenses of the personnel, hotels and everything else. It will increase the expenses in everything. ”

As early as 2018, UK Music CEO Michael Dugher wrote to then-Prime Minister Theresa May to warn her that the end of freedom of movement put the music industry at serious risk. Live, “which generates around to 1 billion pounds a year for the British economy. “

From Spain, promoters who work with British bands and artists have also shared their confusion, reports Ignasi Fortuny. This is the case of Barnaby Harrod, head of the Madrid-based promoter Mercury Wheels: “We are waiting for everything to be clarified. But for small groups it will be very difficult to tour, the costs will be very large. And these are the new Ed Sheeran or Dua Lipa. They all start that way, in rooms with 300 spectators. Cutting off these artists is a very serious mistake. ” One of these future stars is the London-based RAE, an emerging talent award at the Glastonbury festival in 2020, which has seen COVID first and now Brexit has slowed its expansion. “I hope this is fixed. It is sad because I receive daily messages from fans asking me when I will perform in their country / city and I cannot give them an honest answer except ‘soon'”, the promise of London hip-hop responded to this newspaper .

Master Rattle’s Escape

Life for classical music orchestras is also substantially complicated by Brexit. Integrated in many cases by concert performers from different countries, each of them will require a different visa regime. This week one of the greatest conductors of the moment, the British Simon Rattle, at the head of the London Symphony, he announced by surprise his departure to Germany, to direct the Bavarian Radio and Television Orchestra. Sir Simon, decorated by the queen, has been a very critical voice of Brexit, which is going to make the UK, he said, “a cultural prison”. The London Symphony performs about 120 concerts a year, but in the future, according to its manager, Katryn McDowell, British orchestras will have to reduce their performances in European countries, to limit the cost of administrative procedures.

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“Open door”

The British Government affirms that “the door is still open, in case the EU changes its mind”, and professionals ask for a solution. “The simplest formula would be to negotiate a work permit for all of Europe, without requiring a visa,” says the executive director of Music Managers Forum, Annabella Coldrick. In this way, the uncertainty of artists and businessmen would end and the power to tour the continent would be guaranteed.

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