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UK Music backs amendment to immigration bill that ensures touring musicians are on the government’s agenda

By | Published on Tuesday 8 September 2020

Live music

With all the COVID shenanigans and the catastrophic impact the pandemic has had on the live music sector, it’s become easy to forget that the clusterfuck that is Brexit is still looming. But, hey, don’t forget people, the clusterfuck that is Brexit is still looming. And plenty of questions remain regarding what it will mean for UK artists touring the rest of Europe, and European artists touring here.

Although the Brexit process officially began on 31 Jan, we are – of course – still in a transition period, meaning nothing to date has really changed. Those changes will kick in on 1 Jan 2021, though no one really knows what that will mean because negotiations regarding the future relationship between the UK and the EU are ongoing, and there remains the very real chance that no new deal will be in place by the start of next year.

For the music industry there remains the risk that, just as live music starts to get going again post-COVID, a whole load of extra bureaucracy and costs will kick in whenever British artists perform in the EU, and artists from EU countries tour the UK. And some reckon that will be a nice new catastrophe ready and waiting to take over just as the COVID catastrophe ends.

Of relevance to all this on the UK side is the Immigration And Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill which, among other things, officially brings to an end the automatic right of EU citizens to work in the UK.

For the current UK government, this is a key part of the Brexit adventure as “let’s stop all those foreigners working here” was a big part of the Brexit pitch ahead of the EU referendum in 2016. Of course, that pitch ignores the fact that the very same agenda takes away the automatic right of every UK citizen to work anywhere in the EU.

That is a bit of a fucker. Although less so for the wealthy backers of the Brexit project who are all pretty certain that their money and influence will ensure they can always sort it out for their kids to work in Barcelona, Bucharest or Berlin, should they want to.

But what about British musicians who just want to play some songs on a stage somewhere else in Europe? Well, we don’t really know. However, as the Immigration And Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill works its way through the House Of Lords, efforts are underway to ensure that the government at least has the impact of Brexit on touring musicians very much on its agenda.

Supporting those moves, cross-sector trade body UK Music explains: “A group of peers led by Tim Clement-Jones is spearheading a move to amend the government’s bill to help safeguard the UK music industry. The proposed changes would compel the Home Secretary Priti Patel to report on the government’s assessment of the impact on musicians and others in the creative industries of the ending of rights to free movement of people across the EU within a month of the bill becoming law”.

“The amendment”, it goes on, “puts pressure on the government to explain how they intend for music industry workers from EU nations to get permission to work in the UK in the new year. It also calls on the government to outline details of any deals made by the government concerning the ability of British musicians and others to work in the EU”.

Expanding on all that, acting UK Music CEO Tom Kiehl says: “Thousands of people in the UK music industry need to move quickly and easily across Europe for their work. There is a real fear that without a new trading relationship in place the government’s post-Brexit changes will seriously impede that ability and damage our world-leading industry and the music industry’s export trade which is worth £2.7 billion a year”.

“The proposed amendment to the government’s legislation”, he goes on, “would pave the way for a swift assessment of the extent of any damage caused by new restrictions on movement and support calls for there to be an agreement between the UK and EU nations on this matter. We are grateful to Lord Clement-Jones and his colleagues for raising this crucial issue in the House Of Lords and we urge the government to adopt it to ensure the music industry does not suffer as a result of these changes”.

Clement-Jones himself adds: “Post-Brexit negotiations will need to take place, but all of us hope for the sake of our music industry that the outcome of the amendment and any review carried out as a result will ensure that a scheme at least equivalent to the vital touring arrangements which currently exist are put in place”.