Sir Elton John has warned that less-established artists risk “being stranded in Dover” if problems facing UK musicians touring the EU following Brexit are not resolved.
The star gave a statement to an inquiry by a cross-party group of MPs and peers, who are urging the government to “tear down the barriers” of rising costs and red tape now associated with obtaining visas and transporting instruments since the UK left the European Union.
In 2021, artists including The Chemical Brothers, Blur, Primal Scream, Little Mix and Radiohead were among dozens of acts who joined the #LetTheMusicMove campaign against post-Brexit “bureaucracy”.
The government says it is supporting musicians to adapt to the new arrangements.
But a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music (APPG on Music), which includes more than 100 MPs and peers, is now calling for the appointment of a “touring tsar” to help solve the problems.
The key issues include complex post-Brexit restrictions on short-term working in the EU for UK music workers and the inability to use UK trucks for British musicians touring Europe, they say.
In his statement, Sir Elton said: “The government has had a golden opportunity to fix the problem while COVID was closing down touring.
“While some progress has been made that opportunity has been allowed to slip…
“The heartbeat and future of our vibrant industry face finding themselves stranded in Dover through no fault of their own.”
‘It could become an impossible dream’
In April, chart-topping British band White Lies were hit by the problems – forced to cancel a show in Paris after their equipment was “detained by Brexit legislation leaving England”.
Speaking about the experience, they said: “It cost the band (and our fans) financially and emotionally, and shouldn’t have happened. We have the resources to pay experienced professionals to guide us through the red tape, but the reality for newer acts is that touring in Europe could become an impossible dream.
“We welcome all proposals for extra funding, designated websites to provide clear guidance, the cutting of red tape, and the appointment of a touring tsar to help expedite all of the above. These changes can go some way to helping this country’s musicians and performers to not become a cultural casualty of Brexit.”
The APPG on Music report warns that UK music workers are “facing more costs, more complications and getting fewer opportunities” since the UK left the EU at the end of January 2020, and says action is needed “urgently”.
The group is calling for improvements including:
• The appointment of a “touring tsar” to co-ordinate the government’s response
• The creation of a “transitional support fund” to help UK music exporters deal with increased costs
• The government to work with EU nations on an agreement to cut red tape and costs
• An increase in the number of border points for checks
APPG on Music chairman Kevin Brennan, Labour MP for Cardiff West, said: “We have heard evidence from right across the UK music industry about some of the horrendous problems musicians and crew face touring the EU.
“It’s over two years since Brexit, yet there is still a mountain of red tape and extra costs that musicians and crew have to deal with before they can play to fans in many EU states…
“Without urgent action there is a very real risk that the talent pipeline on which the UK music industry relies will be badly damaged for years to come.”
Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, chief executive of UK Music, said the report “spells out with crystal clarity the challenges many musicians and crew still face”.
He added: “The UK is a global music superpower – if we want to keep it that way, then it’s mission critical we remove the barriers facing touring musicians and Let The Music Move.”
A government spokesperson told Sky News: “We are supporting the UK’s brilliant musicians to adapt to the new arrangements and make touring easier.
“Following our engagement, 24 EU member states including the biggest touring markets such as Spain, France, Germany and the Netherlands have confirmed they offer visa and work permit-free routes for UK performers and other creative professionals.
“We continue to engage with the few remaining countries which do not offer visa or work permit-free routes.”