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Elton John says the government “tossed away” the arts when negotiating Brexit trade deal

By | Published on Monday 28 June 2021

Elton John

Elton John has accused the British government of being “philistines” who have just “tossed away” the income generated for the UK economy by the creative sector because they think “the arts … don’t matter”.

John has been outspoken about the lack of any visa-free touring provision in the UK’s new post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union, which was hastily rushed together at the end of last year. He has spoken to various politicians on the matter over the last six months, and earlier this month sent a statement to a select committee hearing in Parliament warning of a “looming catastrophe” in the British arts if musicians and others are unable to easily perform in Europe.

Speaking to the Observer this weekend, he said: “I’m so angry. I’m livid about what the government did when Brexit happened. They made no provision for the entertainment business, and not just for musicians, actors and film directors, but for the crews, the dancers, the people who earn a living by going to Europe”.

“People like me can afford to go to Europe because we can get people to fill in the forms and get visas done”, he went on. “But what makes me crazy is that the entertainment business brings in £111 billion a year to this country and we were just tossed away”.

“The fishing industry – which they still fucked up – brings in £1.4 billion”, he added. “And I’m all for the fishermen, but we’re talking about over a hundred billion pounds of difference here, and we weren’t even thought about. ‘Oh well, the arts: they don’t matter’. To young people just starting a career, it’s crucifying”.

John also said that one of the politicians he has met with to discuss these issues was chief UK-EU trade deal negotiator David Frost, “but we didn’t really get anywhere with him”.

The parliamentary select committee investigation into what is being done to resolve the EU touring problem hasn’t got very far with Frost either. Earlier this month he failed to appear at a hearing where he was set to be quizzed about how he failed to deliver something that was promised to the creative community repeatedly pre-Brexit, and also what is being done to fix the problem.

Frost is now set to appear at a rescheduled hearing tomorrow. Culture select committee chair Julian Knight MP has already said that there could be “no acceptable reason” for Frost to miss this hearing. Assuming Frost agrees, we can look forward to finding out tomorrow just how little progress has been made on the matter.