Greens call for musicians to have visa-free access to the EU

Green Party Deputy Leader Amelia Womack is among those who have backed a letter calling for paperwork-free travel for British musicians, criticising the UK Government’s failure to consider the impact visa restrictions will have on the UK music industry. 

 

Concert
Green World

The Green Party has backed a letter from some of the UK’s leading musicians calling on the Government to ensure musicians continued ability to travel paperwork-free whilst they tour the EU in the post-Brexit era.

The open letter, addressed to the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden and signed by 110 musical artists, would ensure touring musicians would not have to go through the costly and bureaucratic process of gaining visas for each country they travel through. 

It requests paperwork-free travel is negotiated for British artists and a reciprocal deal is introduced for European acts wishing to play in British venues.

The letter follows the UK Government’s announcement that it will not pursue a waiver scheme for British artists touring the EU, meaning that British musicians will have to obtain visas, customs waivers and work permits for each country they intend to visit.

The UK Government and the EU had blamed one another for being unable to reach an agreement on the matter, although it has since been revealed that No 10 rejected an EU proposal allowing for 90-day visa-free tours for British musicians, on the basis that it clashed with the ideology of ending free movement. 

Green Party Deputy Leader Amelia Womack has supported the letter and commented: “This negotiating failure is another symptom of the Conservative Government’s xenophobic blind-spot when it comes to freedom of movement.”

“Its refusal to see this as a reciprocal right and one that is vital to our economy is hitting musicians as it has already hit lawyers, doctors, academics and the many others who used to travel freely across a labour-market of half a billion people.”

According to UK Music’s annual Music By Numbers report, the music industry was worth £5.8 billion a year to the UK economy prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Womack is among those who are concerned that restricting the free movement of musicians will have majorly detrimental effects on the economic recovery and future cultural impact of the UK’s music industry, particularly in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

Womack added: “The long, bureaucratic process musicians currently have to face, including domestic immigration checks and the possibility of having to pay for multiple visas across the continent, means that many will simply have to cease touring.”

“The music industry is one of many that has been utterly failed by this Government that has broken its promise to ensure they could move freely after Brexit.

"Not only is the music industry an essential sector of our economy, it is also a vital part of our cultural standing in the world and an important part of our soft power that is now more important than ever.”

Showing its support for the letter, the Green Party has called for future paperwork-free travel for British musicians to include permits for their equipment, road crew and technicians, allowing for staff to join artists on full European tours.

Womack has previously shown support for British musicians throughout the coronavirus pandemic and has advocated for artists to be protected by a Universal Basic Income that would help protect their livelihood while opportunities in the arts are limited due to the coronavirus restrictions. 

Responding to Rishi Sunak’s comments from last October, when he suggested that those in the arts sector may need to find new opportunities and consider retraining, Womack said: “If we let this sector collapse, it won’t bounce back. The legends of the future will be lost and undiscovered. 

Our artists deserve support, they deserve protection, and they deserve to know that they are valued. We need a universal basic income to protect them until we can all enjoy the arts to the fullest, safely, once again.”