Musicians renew calls for EU deal as government tells LBC it wants to make touring Europe easier

10 July 2024, 07:02

Musicians want to make touring the EU easier
Musicians want to make touring the EU easier. Picture: Alamy/LBC/Independent Society of Musicians
Alan Zycinski

By Alan Zycinski

The government has said it wants to make it easier for musicians to tour Europe in the wake of fresh calls for a deal to be struck with the EU.

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Hundreds of artists have been urging ministers to pursue an agreement with the EU for years which would see them perform in Europe with less red tape and additional costs associated with Brexit.

And a petition started by the Musicians' Union backing those calls for a so-called 'Musicians' passport' gained more than 100,000 signatures.

There appears to have been little movement however on the issue under the previous Conservative administration.

But Deborah Annetts, CEO at Independent Society of Musicians, who currently have more than 10,000 members across the UK, told LBC they're hopeful new Labour officials are more open to formalising an agreement.

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Deborah Annetts
Deborah Annetts. Picture: Independent Society of Musicians

She said: "They (Labour) have been much more sympathetic. They understand how it would be possible to create a little carve out without dismantling the trade incorporation agreement.

"So it wouldn't have to get rid of Brexit, this would sit alongside Brexit. It's perfectly feasible.

"And what we've heard from them is they are definitely sympathetic. I hope that they will start having a conversation with the EU about this because everybody wins.

"It's just a question of Europe and the UK sitting down. It's a really simple one page agreement. I've seen it. It's really simple. It's something that is eminently achievable.

"Rachel Reeves has set out her mission to generate growth. The UK creative industry is an engine for growth, we just need the blockages dismantled so the creative sector can play its part in regenerating this economy".

Geoff Ellis
Geoff Ellis. Picture: LBC

And Hamish Fingland from Bounce MGMT, who represent several bands and musicians in Scotland, told LBC they want to see an 'artists' passport' brought in.

He said: "For me it would include all the different areas that are impacting us.

"We have to get a carnet to bring our equipment into Europe. You have to apply with that in plenty of time so you can go through border control. For artists like mine that can cost between £500 and £1000 which is all relative to what you're making.

"There's also the artist visa situation for staying out there for a period of time. You're not there to emigrate, you're there as an artist to entertain people.

"There's also the taxes on the fees - I'd love it if there was a way it worked where that was the same for all the countries.

"And on merchandise as well - you have to do a declaration on your merchandise, you get taxed on your merchandise if it's over a certain amount and you pay VAT on your merchandise if it's over a certain amount."

And CEO of DF Concerts Geoff Ellis agreed the touring situation is a problem for UK artists, telling LBC: "Certainly the touring aspect and the negative effects of Brexit on both artists coming to the UK but more specifically for the British artists for them having to travel, the issues of carnets and visas has become really problematic and costly for acts as well.

"Artists can speak better on that issue than I can because obviously I'm not going out on tour with them when they do Europe, but I know it's been a big challenge for all artists whether it's on a stadium level or probably more acutely on a grassroots level where the margins are so tight."

A DCMS spokesperson said: "Our brilliant musicians and artists are some of the best on the planet, which is why we want to make it easier for them to tour and export abroad.

"We will be working closely with international partners and relevant stakeholders to consider how we can help create smooth arrangements for touring artists and support the huge potential for economic growth in our creative industries."

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