Ministers make ‘misleading’ claims about the costs and red tape faced by artists trying to tour the EU post-Brexit, a parliamentary inquiry has found.
Liz Truss is being urged to carry out an ‘urgent review’ of repeated claims the problems have been mitigated – as a committee of peers back protests by musicians, led by Elton John.
Their report rejects the late David Frost’s attempt to wash his hands of the controversy – arguing that the Culture Department has the blame – insisting the Foreign Secretary must take matters into his own hands.
And it’s ringing alarm bells over the plight of young musicians, deprived of the chance to pursue their careers after the Brexit trade deal broke a promise to save visa-free touring.
“We heard clear evidence that young classical musicians, in particular, were being forced out of the profession because they were no longer able to travel to a member country (or countries) of the European Union to work short-term,” a letter to Ms. Truss states.
Elton John has criticized the government for claiming that 21 of the 27 EU countries offer visa-free and work permit-free access, while severe restrictions still exist.
The letter, from the Lords European Affairs Committee, points out that Austria requires a permit for visits longer than four weeks, with similar restrictions in Belgium (21 days), the Czech Republic (7 days), the -Bas (6 weeks) and in Poland. (30 days).
Charles Kinnoull, chairman of the committee, said The Independent“Not only are the government websites not accurate, but there has been a lot of misleading information about the processes someone needs to go through beforehand.
“It’s an incredible complex. Imagine you want to perform in Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic – which makes perfect sense for a classical musician – there are three completely different regimes to navigate.
The unaffiliated peer said he hoped placing Ms Truss in charge of the EU talks – after Lord Frost’s shock resignation before Christmas – would help find a ‘landing zone’.
“It’s something that hurts both sides. Not only are UK musicians unable to plan tours, but it’s also damaging for European artists who want to come here,” Lord Kinnoull added.
The Independent revealed that only Spain has agreed a new deal to facilitate post-Brexit touring, despite Boris Johnson’s vow to ‘solve’ the crisis, made 10 months ago.
The trade deal saw the UK reject an EU offer to retain visa-free and permit-free tours, leaving artists mired in costly “mountains of red tape”, the Incorporated Society of Musicians said.
No effort has been made for further talks with Brussels, although ‘cabotage’ rules – to allow trucks to cross borders – are an EU matter.
The committee’s report states: “There are no legal impediments to establishing a sector-specific visa waiver scheme and this could be done in a way that ensures the UK retains full control of its borders.
“The committee urges the government to reconsider its approach to a visa-free regime and recognize that the decision to implement such a system is, in itself, an exercise in sovereignty.”