Lawyers have identified five bogus claims made by ministers for refusing to strike a deal to save visa-free tours in the EU, leaving performers crippling new costs and red tape.
As The independent revealed, despite Boris Johnson’s vow to ‘fix’ the crisis – sparked by his Brexit deal – no discussion took place and the artists were simply promised advice on the daunting obstacles they face.
Today, a legal opinion obtained by the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) tore up the reasons given for not having obtained a Visa Waiver Agreement (VWA) with Brussels.
The organization also claims that the EU has concluded no less than 28 such agreements, which means that artists from countries like Colombia, the United Arab Emirates and Tonga can tour more easily than British artists.
“Despite what ministers told MPs, the latest legal opinions have shown that it is entirely possible for the government to create a deal,” said Deborah Annetts, ISM chief executive.
“With the music industry now looking beyond the coronavirus, it is still virtually impossible for many creative professionals to work in Europe on a short-term or freelance basis. “
Government complaints rejected by a QC are:
* That a deal would require the renegotiation of the Brexit trade deal – while a “short side deal” could be added.
* That a VWA would be incompatible with the “resumption of control” of borders – while it would exempt only a limited number of professions.
* That it “would not force EU member states” to forgo visas – whereas it would be legally binding once ratified, requiring EU Council approval.
* That it would only cover “ad hoc performances” – whereas this is the legal term used by the EU to refer to artists performing a full tour.
* That this “would not cover work permits” – which, while correct, masks the fact that member states would then agree on work permit rules, if any.
Ms Annetts called the legal opinion “extremely troubling,” adding: “It just takes the political will to deliver on the Prime Minister’s commitment to fix this mess. “
It was released as Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden prepares to testify on the controversy before the Commons Culture Committee on Thursday.
He angered organizations representing creative artists when he said it was up to them to use their lobbying power to resolve the crisis, rather than the responsibility of the government.
The Musicians’ Union, One Dance UK, Equity, BECTU, the Fashion Roundtable, the Society of London Theater, the Association of British Orchestras are among the organizations applying for a visa waiver program.
This would allow short-term visits on a reciprocal basis, which typically means 90 days out of 180 – the EU proposal the UK rejected as Brexit talks peaked last year .
On March 24, the Prime Minister told MPs: “We have to fix this. We work very hard, bilaterally, with each individual government. “
But the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) did not dispute that no discussion had taken place – or that no action had been taken in Brussels, about the rules. visa.