NEWS: EU and UK Touring Musicians face devastating consequences of proposed post-Brexit immigration plans

NEWS: EU and UK Touring Musicians face devastating consequences of proposed post-Brexit immigration plans

The UK government’s newly published post-Brexit immigration plans have been announced and members of the music industry are warning that they could have a devastating impact on European musicians looking to perform here. They will also increase the likelihood of new costs and bureaucracy for British artists looking to perform elsewhere in Europe.

“The Brexit deal creates barriers to being able to perform in Europe and for European performers to perform in the UK – barriers that will only be able to be managed by artists with a certain level of success,” UK Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd told the NME this week. “This is basically a tax on new and emerging musicians. It’s not a tax that will have any impact on your James Blunts and Roger Daltreys. Someone will sit in an office and fill in all of their paperwork.”

We sketched out the potential impacts of Brexit upon music and freedom of movement last year.

The proposed new laws say that creative workers must apply for a temporary Tier 5 visa from 2021, which means they must jump through more hoops and pay a £244 pound fee per individual. Provide proof 90 days before applying, that they have nearly £1000 in savings, so they can support themselves unless they are “A-Rated”. Provide a certificate of sponsership from an event organiser. This will mean some artists may not be able to afford to perform here for festivals or as part of ongoing tours. Also the new proposed Australian points style system may also prevent long-term stays for those from the EU working in music. This may lead to a loss of income for venues and promoters and fans deprived of seeing their favourite European act.

Responding to the proposals on Twitter, the acting chief of UK Music, Tom Kiehl, wrote: “New plans confirm that from 2021 EU musicians coming to the UK for concerts and festivals will be treated in the same way as those from the rest of the world. This will drag some agents and promoters into the immigration system for the first time and increases the possibility that [EU] member states [will] introduce new bureaucratic hoops for UK musicians to jump through when seeking to perform across the European Union”.

Also apart from the costs the cultural impact of the loss of an exchange of music and culture is impossible to estimate.

English composer Howard Goodall criticised the move, telling Classic FM: “Our cultural life will be diminished and our currently thriving music industry shackled by these counter-productive new immigration rules.

“Our musical heritage has been immeasurably enriched by creative exchange with artists from all over the world, especially our closest neighbours. This is the result of a retrogressive, mean-spirited agenda.”

Just think, if the Brexit Government’s new points-system for immigration had been in operation in the 20th century, we’d have been spared the terrible burden to our economy and culture of Freddie Mercury, Sade, Joan Armatrading, Rita Ora, Katie Melua, Emeli Sandé and George Michael.”

What it means for UK artists performing abroad and their crews is unclear as each EU member state will have a different set of guidelines but this lack of freedom compared to those we enjoyed as a EU member has led to uncertainty and a worry that more costs and paperwork will be required. Which will be a hammer blow particularly for young emerging artists and bands who wish to tour the EU.

On the potential impact beyond tours and festivals, Kiehl added: “It’s welcome [that] the government has reduced its salary cap, yet these proposals will still not work for many in the EU who want to work in the UK music industry over a longer period of time, given musicians’ average earnings are £23k and a reliance in the [UK government’s new] points-based [immigration] system on the need for elite academic qualifications”.

Ministers have talked about there being some flexibility for certain categories of workers such as nurses, and the music industry will continue to lobby for musicians to be another such category.

In response Musicians’ Union launched a petition calling upon the government to enact a new passport which will allow acts and crew to travel freely between EU countries. The musicians’ passport would “last a minimum of two years, be free or cheap, cover all EU member states, get rid of the need for carnets and other permits, and cover road crew, technicians and other staff necessary for musicians to do their job.”

  1. Let’s keep this in perspective. These are proposals only. They have to get through parliament and even an 80-seat majority means nothing when MPs consider how voting in favour of all of this might impact on them. And that doesn’t take into account what the House of Lords says about it. The old duffers do have some value.
    The government’s immigration proposals are aimed at reducing EU immigration to do unskilled ‘menial’ jobs and to upscale the value of those jobs for the economically inactive in this country. I think the Home Secretary made that quite clear this week. But as a consequence, all sorts of people get dragged in at first, be they for example ‘hospitality industry’ workers who could be well qualified, or musicians.
    It is only when anomalies are pointed out that they are rectified. And they will be. Millions of people of all ages follow music. MPs will not want to offend them by making it difficult to perform here, nor the government.
    There’s also a whiff of Project Fear about the NME’s article. I thought that nonsense was over and done with. In my own industry I attended conference after conference between 2016 and 2018 before I stopped going out of disgust in which self-styled ‘experts’ on panels all predicted that by now, with the UK out of the EU, there would be no flights between the UK and the EU. That always was bullshit and I see no reason not to predict the same for the music business although I do think there is no apparent way of avoiding the need for carnets for goods (equipment), which will be an impediment to artists’ travel.
    There is a line in the comment. “New plans confirm that from 2021 EU musicians coming to the UK for concerts and festivals will be treated in the same way as those from the rest of the world”. Have those from the rest of the world ever found it oppressively difficult to come here? If you want to play in the UK you will make whatever effort is required. Many do.
    I don’t understand the Musicians Union’s call for a passport just for musicians. Where would that end? It isn’t going to happen.
    As for Mr Goodall’s comments, Freddie Mercury’s family came to the UK as a refugee and because of his Indian/Tanzanian heritage and his father’s job probably had right of abode here anyway. Sade is Nigerian-British, Joan Armatrading’s family came over at a time when Caribbean immigration was encouraged, Rita Ora is from Kosovo and her family came to the UK as refugees, Katie Melua is Georgian, Emile Sande was born in Sunderland and George Michael was born in the UK to a family from what had been a British colony. I don’t know what any of them have to do with the EU. And in any case immigration from outside the EU is likely to increase now.

  2. Incorrect – these EU bands won’t need VISAS, they will either need Tier 5 CoS (cost as little as £21 per band), or PPE paperwork (costs nothing) or an invite from a permit-free festival (again, free). US, Canadian, Japanese, Australian, Brazilian, NZ bands all do this currently (and have done since the PBS was introduced over 10 years ago).

    So, as far as touring goes, the fact EU acts will be treated the same as US and Canadian acts means they will need some paperwork, but not the costly visas you say will be required. You have not appreciated the fact there is a visa concession for acts coming here for less than 3 months on Tier 5 CoS.

    If the UK will now treat EU acts the same as US acts (from Jan 2021) then it’s sensible to assume the EU nations will treat UK acts the way they do US acts (as a sensible comparison; not the way they treat Chinese or Nigerian acts who need visas to travel). Germany, for instance, does not make US bands get visas or work permits for tours. So, some of the people you quote are jumping to extremely far-fetched conclusions which, frankly, result in scare-mongering.

  3. Steve, you are entitled to your opinion. But this was a report on proposals and what “could” happen if those are implemented as stated by the GOV website and then interpreted by some heavyweight individuals in the music industry. But seemingly you know better? I hope you are right and the impact isn’t as great. But even what you describe versus the benefits and freedoms of movements we had as an EU member mean that Brexit will be a net negative for EU /UK musicians and touring crews.

    David as for George Michael, Sade and the rest, they, either weren’t born here or their parents weren’t so if these Visa laws and those for low skill EU citizens and Non-EU citizens were enacted they wouldn’t have been here. This is the of thes issue with setting limits on immigration the cultural and social impact of people from over oversees adding to our country culturally and economically. Losing those immigrants working in jobs our indigenous population show little interest in doing in care, hospitality and NHS, could lead to a massive staff shortfalls too. If you are comfortable with these notions then maybe you are comfortable paying more for your food? More in taxes? More to travel too?

  4. I’m talking about EU acts touring here, as per your headline. Not people who moved here as kids and went on to become stars. I deal with touring acts’ immigration – it’s what my business does. I consult on, or personally issue, around 6000 temporary work permits (Certificates of Sponsorship) each year. I know for a fact what non-EU bands have to do, immigration wise. For normal tours EU acts will NOT need to get visas at a cost of £244 per person. They will face a small admin burden, like US and Canadian acts do now. They won’t have to prove they have £1000 in their account for months on end, and they can’t even be A-rated (the thing about A-rated is the UK sponsor, who could vouch for their funds – if they needed a visa, which they won’t). I’m not making this about taxes or food – not relevant to the point about EU acts’ ability to tour the UK.

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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.