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Government issues guidance on touring after a no deal Brexit (probably don’t)

By | Published on Friday 4 October 2019

The UK’s Department For Digital, Culture, Media & Sport has issued guidance on what new obligations artists touring Europe will have to meet in the event of a so called ‘no deal Brexit’. On the key question of visas the government department basically says “we don’t know, ask the fucking foreigners!”

It remains unclear what will happen at the end of this month when the UK is set to leave the European Union. With everyone expecting the rest of the EU to reject the lacklustre new proposals filed this week by Bullshitter In Chief ‘Boris’ Johnson and his minority government – proposals the British Parliament will almost certainly not accept either – it seems very unlikely that any kind of Brexit deal will be signed off by 31 Oct.

In that scenario British law obliges the Bullshitter to beg all those EU chiefs he keeps defaming to further extend the UK’s EU membership. Presumably by promising to hold a general election and/or second referendum in order to move on the debate back home (although the begging letter Parliament has already written for the Bullshitter doesn’t mention that). The Bullshitter, of course, is no fan of British law. Will he comply? Will he lie? Will he cry? Will he die? Who the fuck knows? And what happens if the EU says “NO”?

All of which means a no deal Brexit could occur at the start of next month. It’s what the Brexit superfans now call a ‘clean break Brexit’. But really it’s a ‘delayed deal Brexit’, simply putting off the inevitable deal-making to another day. Between the clean break and the delayed deal a whole load of tedious new paperwork, expenditure and blockages will kick in, negatively impacting some people from day one, but hitting more and more people the longer it takes for the clean breakers to realise that a deal still needs to be done.

Which brings us to those artists hoping to play some songs to fans elsewhere in Europe in the next few months. Because while Brexit – and especially a no deal Brexit – will impact on the music industry in an assortment of ways (for example, CD and vinyl distribution, copyright reform, those music companies with European-bases in London employing multi-lingual teams from all over Europe), by far the biggest concern remains the impact it will have on touring.

Among the questions artists and their teams are having to answer ahead of any post-Brexit tour is whether they need a visa to perform in any one country; what duties they will have to pay on merch; what paperwork they will have to file to take kit into any one country without paying duties; what paperwork they will need to drive vehicles; and what extra insurance they may need to buy once they have had their European citizenship deleted.

The guidance published by the government’s culture department this week deals with each of these issues, although in some cases it raises the question and then provides the unhelpful answer of “well, erm, it depends”. On the key question of whether visas will be required, the government advises “you’ll need to check individual EU member state immigration rules for more information regarding visits, and whether there are any requirements or conditions around supporting documentation, work permits or visas”.

As for taking kit with you on tour, the advisory document notes that “you can usually get an ATA Carnet or use other temporary admissions procedures to avoid paying duty on goods you bring in temporarily for business reasons”. How do you know what procedures are available? “Consider engaging a customs intermediary – such as a broker or a freight forwarder – to help you plan your journeys and navigate customs procedures”.

That there pretty much demonstrates the big problem of a no deal Brexit for many artists. Bigger name acts on bigger scale tours can afford to hire such expertise, and while those experts will probably also have to navigate a period of chaos in the immediate aftermath of a no deal Brexit, they’ll presumably figure out what is needed for each country and can then apply that knowledge across their client base. But for many artists, operating on tight profit margins every time they tour, buying in that expertise is what makes the tour unviable.

Even where artists can cope with the extra costs and time commitments involved in meeting all these new obligations, they might have second thoughts about taking British crew members or session musicians on the road with them, given the more Brits on the team the more paperwork will need to be filed. Which is potentially a huge opportunity for crew members or session players with an Irish passport. But a major fucker for those whose only passport was issued by the government of Queen Liz.

Among the music industry reps expressing frustration at all this in an article published by The Guardian yesterday was UK Music boss Michael Dugher. He said: “Superstars who make millions and book their tours months if not years in advance are very much the exception. Most artists operate on tiny margins and the prospect of extra cost and bureaucracy would kill their ability to tour, develop their talent and build their fanbase”.

Meanwhile, noting that the government’s guidance presented more questions than solutions, Mark Davyd of the Music Venue Trust told the paper: “If this is the best that can be achieved then we would strongly urge the government to bring forward fully funded proposals that create centralised, accessible and free-to-use support that can enable grassroots musicians to comply with these demands”.

Of course, it’s unlikely any minister is going to dedicate any real time to helping musicians, beyond parroting back to the music community UK Music’s own stats about the British music industry’s successes. Not when we are in the midst of a full-on constitutional crisis in which politicians continue to pretend they represent the “will of the people”, when – in fact – they each actually speak for a minority interest group (the pro-Brexit camp is, of course, deeply divided, and the anti-Brexit camp even more so).

So what happens next? Fuck knows. But if you’re going on tour in Europe next month, you’d better check out this page of guidance. And then fill out some forms and pay some experts so that, whatever happens, you’re covered. And if the Bullshitter does obey the law, and the EU does concede to yet another delay to the UK’s departure from its club, you can sleep at night safe in the knowledge that you wasted a load of time and money and ensured that your tour will now make a loss. But, hey, that’s Brexit.