Only one of 27 EU countries has reached a deal to save post-Brexit music tours despite Boris Johnson’s vow to resolve the crisis, an industry group has protested.
The Prime Minister made the promise under pressure nine months ago – but only Spain has signed a deal since, leaving artists to drown in costly ‘mountains of red tape’.
Now the Incorporated Society of Musicians is urging Liz Truss, the new Brexit minister, to reject the hardline approach of her predecessor, David Frost, who failed to make ‘progress’.
“All first identified issues facing the creative sector due to TCA [the Brexit trade deal] remain,” said a letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
In an article for The Independentopera singer Sarah Connolly describes the grim situation facing touring artists as “a seeping, pale, undercooked, slippery slope”.
“2022 is a year that many in the creative industries will look forward to with concern,” writes Dame Sarah.
“Omicron is on the rise and the issues with the Brexit deal from 12 months ago are still issues today. My message to the government for the new year is ‘listen to us’.
The trade deal has seen the UK – as The Independent revealed – rejecting an EU offer to keep tours without visas or permits, breaking a promise made to music organizations last year.
In March, Mr Johnson, faced with serious problems obtaining documents to execute and transporting equipment across EU borders, told MPs: ‘We have to fix that.’
But Lord Frost – the minister he appointed – appeared to wash his hands of the crisis and refused to say it would be resolved, before leaving cabinet.
Ministers were then attacked, including by Elton John, for falsely claiming that 21 of the 27 EU countries offered visa-free and work permit-free access, when severe restrictions still exist in almost all.
In her letter, the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), representing 11,000 members, urges Ms Truss to change course and start negotiations with EU states, while calling for a visa waiver deal with Brussels.
“The sector is now faced with mountains of paperwork, which is both costly and time-consuming,” warns Deborah Annetts, its managing director.
“Proposed solutions such as bilateral agreements with EU states have not materialized, with the exception of Spain, and there are serious problems with cabotage, carnets and designated ports.
“All of these issues have a negative impact on the UK music industry and wider creative industries, which are worth £116bn a year, just like finance or construction.”
To add to the anger, Nadine Dorries, the culture secretary, quickly claimed the contract with Spain, allowing British musicians to work 90 days out of 180.
But industry insiders insist organizations such as the Association of British Orchestras and their Spanish counterparts did most of the negotiating – and that doesn’t cover transport.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has been asked to respond to the criticisms raised in the letter.