Government denies reports it rejected offer of visa-free EU tours by musicians

The government refused claims that it denied artists in the European Union offering visa free tours, arguing that it was pressing for "more ambitious negotiations."

The United Kingdom post-Brexit travel laws, which came into effect on 1 January, do not guarantee artists and artistic travel visa-free for the 27 EU Member States.

Industry groups, including the UK Music business association, have been advising that performers who are expected to obtain visas for each country they tour will face additional costs.

I assume that we are due an account @OliverDowden @RishiSunak @BorisJohnson

Tim (@Tim Burgess) January 9, 2021 — Tim Burgess

The Independent quoted an EU source at the close of talks and claimed that the UK rejected a "standard" plan for the free performers for 90 days, leading some musicians to be furious.

A spokesman for the government described the allegations as 'false speculation.'

They said: "The UK pushed for a more ambitious Agreement with the EU concerning the temporary movement of traveling businesses, covering musicians and others, but the EU rejected our proposals."

Among those who opposed were Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke, musician Nitin Sawhney and Charlatan singer Tim Burgess.

Please sign this petition to help UK artists tour Europe after Brexit if you're in UK and a music-fan!

— Louis Tomlinson, 28 December, 2020 (@Louis Tomlinson)

The reports were described by Burgess in a tweet as "the great swindle n rock n roll": "We need answers to this and we don't let it get under the tapestry – they shouldn't be let off to treat artists with this kind of disrespect."

More than 235,000 signatures have been collected in a petition urging the government to negotiate a 'free cultural work permit.'

Stars such as Louis Tomlinson, a former member of Boyzone, Ronan Keating and Laura Marling, the singer-songwriter, urged their fans to support the movement.

The Liberal Democrats called on the government to report the EU's suggestions before the talks.

A spokesperson said, "These new restrictions blow the music industry, which has already suffered a lot in the pandemic, to the detriment of young musicians and to the financial hardship of some."

Horace Trubridge, Secretary General of the Musicians' Union (MU) said: "With Covid-19 being destroyed by the British music industry and with no end at all in view of the black hole of cancelled concerts, touring, festivals and frequent gigs which form the basis of our international industry, the news, if it is accurate, that our elected officials agreed to refuse this offer is almost beyond reproach.

"Since the result of the 2016 referendum, the MU has been campaigning and lobbying for a musicians passport that would allow our members and their team to live successfully throughout Europe."

Lord Real, Minister of the Cabinet Office earlier this week, reported that negotiations with Brussels over visa-free travel for artists are "unlikely" to be revived soon.