The UK government has announced that visa-free travel for musicians has been secured for 19 EU member countries. It’s a positive step, post-Brexit, but it turns out there are still considerable issues that need to be resolved.
BREXIT: A Touring Musician’s Nightmare
Yes, sorry, we have to mention the Brexit word. Undoubtedly, it’s a topic that’s caused all of us as touring musicians a great deal of concern. On the 31st of January, the UK left the EU and as a consequence, the UK forfeited many benefits that were afforded us as touring artists.
Clearly, if you’re a European touring musician holding a European passport, then you’ll have benefited from travelling border and visa-free between EU nations. Additionally, if you tour for a living you’ll have benefited from the right to work and settle between EU nations.
Another aspect you may not have considered is that of the transportation and sale of goods. We all benefit from being able to sell merchandise to fans. Furthermore, you could move equipment and tools of your trade without the need for carnets.
Visa-Free Travel Re-Instated
Now, obviously, as soon as the UK left the EU, all of that changed. It’s a situation that’s left us all wondering what’s going on. Some of the biggest names in the industry, including Sir Elton John, vocally lobbied for the UK government to come up with a solution.
On August 4th the UK Government Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) announced that:
performers don’t need visas or work permits for short-term tours in 19 EU Member States including France, Germany and Italy.
So that’s all great news then, yes? Can we just go back to touring in the EU as we did before Brexit? Well, unfortunately, no, we can’t! This announcement only pertains to visas and work permits. It also doesn’t cover other important issues you should be concerned about, such as carnets and transportation.
One-Third of EU Countries not Covered
Under current negotiations, 19 EU member states have agreed to some form of visa-free travel. Importantly though, that means you’re still excluded from travelling visa-free into one-third of EU member states. Importantly, if you’re hoping to travel into Europe “Visa Free” under a UK passport, the conditions of your visa-free travel will differ from state to state.
We understand that currently, the length of time you’ll be able to stay in the negotiated state zones will vary dramatically. In some states you can stay up to 90 days; in other states, you’ll only be able to stay up to seven days in any one year. Are you confused yet? Yeah, us too…
Furthermore, we understand you’ll still encounter significant issues if you’re driving a splitter van into Europe. And let’s be honest, who of us doesn’t tour in a splitter van nowadays? Under current regulations, there’s a ban on UK vehicles doing more than three stops on an EU tour. Your splitter van is also currently illegal under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
I’m happy to admit that, probably like you, my background is in music and engineering, not politics or international law. And it seems you’d have to agree that right now that politics are threatening to wreck our industry. I’d like to call on the UK Government and the EU to work on a solution that allows us all to get back to work as soon as possible.
Are you a UK musician planning a tour of the EU in 2021? What are your concerns? Let us know in the comments below.