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MU and ISM call for moves to ensure touring artists can still use ‘splitter vans’ post-Brexit

By | Published on Thursday 15 July 2021


The Musicians’ Union and Incorporated Society Of Musicians have put together a joint response to the UK government’s call for evidence regarding challenges facing “specialist events hauliers” operating in the European Union post-Brexit. The call is part of an investigation by the Department For Transport into one of various issues facing British artists touring Europe following Brexit – and another issue that was not dealt with by the UK’s rushed trade agreement with the EU.

The MU and ISM say that their concerns “focus on ‘splitter vans’, which are a low-cost and accessible way for small and medium scale and emerging artists to tour. ‘Splitter vans’ allow both people and instruments/equipment to be transported in the same van and are an essential vehicle for many touring artists, but their use in the future has now been put into jeopardy due to Brexit”.

They explain that “the proposals in the [post-Brexit Trade And Co-Operation Agreement] state that the use of a splitter van, ‘carrying both passengers and goods, would not be permitted’, because the transport of goods and the transport of people falls between two posts. Without a solution, artists will be caught in the crossfire and see their ability to tour cost effectively ended”.

The two organisations are calling for the DfT to specifically “put in place a legal framework allowing vehicles to carry both passengers and goods for commercial use within the EU”.

They’d also like “a total exemption from cabotage and cross trade rules for vehicles that carry both passengers and equipment for the purpose of cultural performances, rehearsals and recordings”, and that “issues relating to splitter vans be put onto the agenda of the next meeting between [UK minister David] Frost and his EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic and the next Partnership Council meeting”.

Commenting on this specific post-Brexit issue and their submission to the DfT, the MU’s National Organiser For Live Performance, Dave Webster, says: “The Department For Transport call for evidence that closes today places two options in front of the haulage industry as a potential solution to large scale touring. However, we believe these options will not cater for the needs of medium and small scale touring artists and bands. We have garnered support from across the music industry and the haulage industry for the arguments we set out in our response. We hope that government will be listening and can respond with a workable and sustainable solution for all touring musicians”.

Meanwhile, ISM boss Deborah Annetts adds: “[The current] proposals will have a hurtful impact on the ability of small and medium scale touring artists as well as emerging musicians to tour in Europe. As representatives of musicians, we have come together to call on the government to back proposals that will work for the creative industries. Those solutions cannot come soon enough so our artists and bands can begin to plan with confidence. As COVID-19 restrictions ease, touring musicians should be looking forward to getting back out on the road, unless the government comes up with answers, that ambition will prove impossible for many”.