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MPs to quiz Culture Minister on failure to secure visa-free touring in EU trade deal

By | Published on Monday 15 February 2021


Digital And Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage will tomorrow be questioned again about her failure to secure visa-free travel within Europe post-Brexit for creative workers, including musicians. Such an agreement had been promised ahead of the UK’s last minute trade deal with the EU.

This time, Dinenage will appear before a parliamentary select committee alongside her Department For Digital, Culture, Media And Sport colleague Alastair Jones. Representatives for the creative industries will also give evidence, including Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society Of Musicians.

During a parliamentary debate on the subject last week, prompted by a petition on Parliament’s website, Dinenage blamed the EU for the situation, saying that the UK had offered a “very straightforward” proposal for touring performers, which was knocked back by European officials. She added that “there was no specific counter-offer from the EU concerning touring for musicians or for the creative sectors”.

The EU did, however, make wider proposals for visa-free business travel that were rejected by the UK. However, Dinenage insisted, these would not have achieved what the creative industries wanted, even if they had been accepted.

Still, visa-free touring was repeatedly promised and then not delivered. Or course, it was also promised that the fishing industry would thrive, there would be less bureaucracy, and that £350 million a week would be funnelled into the NHS after Brexit, none of which has proven true.

Nonetheless, music adds £5.6 billion a year to the value of the UK economy – many times more than the fishing industry, which became a key focus for the UK during negotiations – and a reduction in touring once COVID restrictions are lifted could have a far greater impact than some of the various other downsides of Brexit.

The lack of an EU-wide agreement allowing visa-free touring means that British musicians must now deal with each EU country individually. Some countries will require musicians to get travel permits and/or equipment carnets, all of which could make some tours unviable.

The one-off select committee hearing with take place tomorrow, starting at 10am. You will be able to watch it all here.