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UK government clarifies visa rules for British artists touring in EU

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By Euronews
People take part in a music concert in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, March 27, 2021.
People take part in a music concert in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, March 27, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti
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Music industry figures say there is "nothing new" in the UK government's claim that British artists can do visa-free, short-term tours in 19 EU countries.

London made the announcement on Wednesday saying it had come after discussion with every member state of the bloc.

"From these discussions, 19 Member States have confirmed UK musicians and performers do not need visas or work permits for short-term tours," the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said in a statement.

The 19 countries are Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Sweden.

The government said it was "actively engaging with the remaining EU member states that do not allow visa and permit free touring, and calling on them to align their arrangements with the UK's generous rules, which allow touring performers and support staff to come to the UK for up to three months without a visa".

But Greg Parmley, CEO of LIVE, a federation for the music industry, said while he was grateful the government had clarified “the pre-existing arrangements on travel to a number of EU countries” there was "nothing new in their latest announcement".

“We are still some way from visa-free travel in the EU,” he said.

“There are no new ‘frictionless’ agreements and in reality, this is only a very small piece in a much bigger touring puzzle, and substantial financial and bureaucratic barriers remain that disproportionately disadvantage smaller and emerging artists."

He insisted the government needed to introduce a “Transitional Support Package” to support the industry while negotiations are ongoing.

Paul W Fleming, the general secretary of Equity, a creative arts union, said the government’s clarification was an “overdue but welcome first step.”

But he said the industry was still waiting for “a country-by-country breakdown of how this will work in practice, proper definitions of short term touring, and the implications on carnets and cabotage for small scale productions.”

He urged the government to publish those details immediately.

A letter published in The Times earlier this year and signed by prominent artists including Ed Sheeran, Elton John, Glass Animals, Liam Gallagher and the Sex Pistols, had also argued that the "costly work permits" and "mountain of paperwork for their equipment" necessary to tour would be particularly burdensome for young musicians.

The Let the Music Move campaign — supported by artists including Radiohead, The Chemical Brothers, Sampha, Annie Lennox, and New Order — stressed for instance that the EU touring market for UK artists is the world's biggest, nearly four times the size of the US.

A spokesperson for the campaign described the latest announcement to Euronews as "an admission of failure" on the part of the British government:

"Failure to fulfil the promises made by Government about securing our industry's future during negotiations, failure to 'fix' the issue, as per the Prime Minister's statement of March this year, and failure to provide certainty around touring in almost a third of EU countries, eight months after the music industry was dealt a no-deal scenario."

"It remains that the UK's music industry is in a far less advantageous position now than it was pre-January," they added.

They also called for the government to release the touring requirements for performers and crew for each of the 27 member states.

The Musicians' Union described the latest announcement as a "positive development" in a statement to Euronews, adding that they "need to see the detail to be certain about what it means for musicians";

"There are also still major problems in countries like Spain and with issues like carnets, merchandise, cabotage and splitter vans also still causing problems, we will continue to push the government to do more to sort these out," the spokesperson said.