Boris Johnson pressed by MPs to take urgent action to end EU touring crisis


November 3, 2021

Senior Conservative MP and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Music, David Warburton (pictured) has written to prime minister Boris Johnson on behalf of cross-party MPs demanding “urgent action” over the crisis facing musicians and crew touring the EU.

The APPG on Music has also revealed plans to hold a cross-party inquiry into the costly barriers and delays facing musicians, particularly emerging artists.

Details of the two new initiatives come after Sir Elton John warned in June that the UK music industry risked losing a “generation of talent” and branded the situation a “looming catastrophe” for artists.

In the letter to Johnson, Warburton highlighted how the PM had pledged in March to “fix” the problems surrounding touring the EU.

On behalf of the cross-party APPG, Warburton called for a meeting with the PM to look at ways of overcoming barriers that mean artists and crew are required to apply for costly and complicated visas to tour some EU nations and face further transport headaches due to red tape.

In the letter, Warburton outlined three key areas where the MPs want to see urgent action:

  • The Government to ramp up negotiations with those EU nations that bar visa-free touring
  • More steps to help UK artists touring overseas – such as the creation of a new Music Export Office
  • Minister to explore the idea of forging a new European agreement exempting cultural tours from immigration and transport red tape rules

Commenting on the letter, Warburton said, “Musicians and crew are facing an enormous and grave problem when it comes to touring the EU that is not going to go away.

“We need the Government to ramp up negotiations with nations like Spain where costly visas are still in place and to look for swift solutions to both the visa and transport issues facing musicians and crew.”

Former Cabinet minister and APPG member, Labour MP Harriet Harman said, “This is a very important initiative. There is deep recognition from all parties in the House of Commons of the importance of music to the cultural and economic life of the UK, and of the jeopardy caused by restrictions on UK musicians touring in the EU.

“Livelihoods and careers are at risk and musicians need action from Government now. This inquiry is an opportunity to present Government with an ultimatum that they must sort this out.”

UK Music Chief Executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin welcomed the letter and the plans for an inquiry.

He said, “We need urgent Government action to break down the barriers facing musicians and crew including  a transitional support package of financial aid and further steps to encourage exports.”

The APPG on Music will kick off its inquiry into the barriers facing musicians touring the EU with its first evidence session later this month.

As part of its investigation, the Group is calling for evidence on the impact the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) – the UK/EU trade deal signed following the UK’s departure from the EU – has had on UK music workers and companies looking to tour and work short-term in EU member states.

The inquiry will focus in particular on the following areas: visas and work permits, carnets and CITES (instrument manufacturing materials), cabotage (transport issues), effect on the UK music industry, effect on emerging artists, and potential solutions.

UK Music is a supporter of the #LetTheMusicMove campaign, the artist-led campaign to address some of the issues that musicians and crew face, including increased costs, logistical nightmares and added bureaucracy.

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