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"We’re angry and alarmed" – Musician's Union reacts to claims the UK government rejected the EU's offer of Visa-free touring for performers

Live crowd
(Image credit: Nutthaseth Vanchaichana / EyeEm)

As if 2020 wasn't hard enough on touring, musicians in the UK and Europe now face the longterm fallout of Brexit and the loss of free movement that has followed the UK's exit from the European Union. Now the Musician's Union are fighting back with a new proposal, and they need your help.

The MU's petition over at Chang.org calling for a 'Musician's Passport' for EU touring has already picked up over 100,000 signatures at the time of writing.

The proposed Musician's Passport would include the following: 

  • 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
  • Cover road crew, technicians and other staff necessary for musicians to do their jobs

"Placing costly and resource heavy barriers to that could have a severe impact on working and aspiring musicians – as well as the broader UK music industry"

Horace Trubridge, MU General Secretary

The MU points out that UK musicians rely on touring in the European Union to make a living.  

"Musicians, and other creative and cultural workers, are a distinct workforce with specific needs," the organisation adds. "Visa and customs rules post-Brexit need to account for that. 

"Placing costly and resource heavy barriers to that could have a severe impact on working and aspiring musicians – as well as the broader UK music industry.

"Musicians already have experience with difficult visa systems. It can cost thousands to take a band to the United States, and the cost of fast-track visa processing fees have just gone up 15%. Musicians have voiced their fears that something similar might happen with the European Union, to devastating effect."

The petition follows the MU's disappointment at the contents of an alleged recent leak suggesting the UK government rejected an offer from the EU to provide visa-free travel within member states for British musicians. 

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"The news, if true, that our own elected representatives chose to turn down such an offer is nigh-on unbelievable"

Horace Trubridge, MU General Secretary

It counters previous claims by the UK government Culture Minister Oliver Dowden that creative arts were a priority in its discussions with the EU.

“With the British music business having been devastated by Covid-19 and with no end in sight to the black hole of cancelled concerts, tours, festivals and regular gigs that is the very bedrock of our world-class industry, the news, if true, that our own elected representatives chose to turn down such an offer is nigh-on unbelievable," said Horace Trubridge, MU General Secretary.

“Ever since the result of the referendum in 2016, the MU has campaigned and lobbied for a Musicians’ Passport that would allow our members and their support crew to make a successful living across Europe.

“This campaign has been backed by all sides of the industry and current petitions," added Trubridge, "signed by hundreds of thousands of musicians, industry workers and supporters, illustrate just how vital the freedom of economic movement is to our industry worth £5.8bn to the UK.

“Negotiators on both sides should continue to acknowledge the importance of cultural life and its huge social and economic value by finding an acceptable solution.”

Boris Johnson

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's commitment to supporting the UK's musicians during an unprecedented period of adversity is now in question  (Image credit: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

In addition to pushing for the Musician's Passport, the MU is demanding that the Culture Minister "urgently confirms one way or another whether it was the UK Government that blocked the deal which would have granted UK musicians easy access to EU states for touring." 

Elsewhere, the reaction to the alleged leak from musicians including Radiohead's Thom Yorke has been furious with the hashtag #Boriskilledmusic trending on Twitter.  

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Sign the petition at Chang.org

Rob Laing

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before that I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar.