Musicians ‘have lost entire continent as a venue’, according to MP

Tom Horton, PA

Musicians are facing “the loss of an entire continent as a venue”, an MP has said.

Giles Watling, the Conservative MP for Clacton, Essex, said the music industry is facing the “double whammy” of the impact of coronavirus and new post-Brexit restrictions on touring.

His comments came in a debate sparked by more than 280,000 people signing a petition calling for a cultural work permit deal to be reached.

Musicians in concert
More than 280,000 people signed a petition calling for a cultural work permit deal to be reached (Martin Rickett/PA)

New travel rules that came into force at the beginning of the year do not guarantee visa-free travel for UK musicians in the EU.

The Government has previously said the EU rejected its proposals which would have allowed musicians to travel more freely around its 27-member states, however MPs have called for the issue to be looked at again.

Mr Watling told the Petitions Committee music is “a great deployment of UK soft power”.

He added: “Our performers are now facing a double whammy of an industry devastated by Covid and the loss of an entire continent as a venue.

“We must continue to raise this issue with our EU neighbours.”

Live music
Musicians said performers have been ‘shamefully failed’ by new visa rules (Niall Carson/PA)

Former Labour Party deputy leader Harriet Harman told the committee the issue is “so important in so many ways, culturally as well as financially”.

“It is not a Brexit teething problem,” she told the Petitions Committee.

“It will be enduring unless it is sorted out.”

Ms Harman added: “Those musicians just starting out will be unable to do the tours they have to do to get their careers off the ground.

“Many at the pinnacle of their careers will feel they have no option but to base themselves abroad, which will be a terrible loss to this country, and many of those who currently make a great contribution to music will find it is no longer viable for them and they will give up and change career.”

Labour MP Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) said the issue needs to be resolved in the coming months.

“Live music has had such a terrible year and if this isn’t sorted out by the summer, it will just be rubbing salt into the wounds,” she told the committee.

Responding for the Government, Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage told the committee the debate was on an “important issue”.

“As a Government we will engage with bilateral partners to find ways to make life easier for those working in the creative industries in countries across the EU,” she added.

Last month Sir Elton John, Roger Waters and Ed Sheeran were among more than 100 musicians who criticised the Government in a letter which said performers have been “shamefully failed” by new visa rules.

Last week Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said the EU must budge to end the “absurd and self-defeating” obstacles facing UK-based musicians wishing to tour Europe post-Brexit.

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