The Government proposed to the EU that musicians and their technical staff be added to the list of permitted activities for short-term business visitors in the “entry and temporary stay” chapter of the trade and co-operation agreement. That would have allowed musicians and their staff to travel and perform in the EU more easily without needing work permits. The proposals were developed following consultation with the EU’s creative industries, but were rejected by the EU.
The UK’s music industry is worth £5.8 billion annually and supports 200,000 jobs, so for a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Minister to suggest recently that a touring visa was not compatible with Brexit goals has caused huge anger and frustration to many of my constituents who work in the sector and are seeing no benefits of Brexit, only additional costs and red tape. What is the Minister doing to secure reciprocal visa-free travel for those in our creative industries whose careers and jobs depend on it?
We continue to work with the EU Commission and member states to ensure that we can have the kind of opportunities that the hon. Lady describes. In the meantime, we do want to support the sector, which is why the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has set up the £1.57 billion cultural recovery fund, which is currently supporting 75,000 jobs.
Radiohead have called this Government “spineless”. Whether it is Elton John, Ronan Keating or Brian Cox, there is a continuing all-star line-up of some of our biggest exports who are emphasising the importance of touring for musicians at all stages of their careers. How does the Minister feel about the prospect of major acts deciding that they need base themselves abroad because our parochial laws do not allow the movement needed to compete on the global stage?
It is not about our parochial laws. During the negotiations, the EU tabled text regarding paid activities that can be conducted without a visa. Those proposals would not have addressed our arts sector’s concerns; they did not deal with work permits at all and would not have allowed support staff to tour with artists. The only way we are going to get movement on this issue is to get the EU to agree to our very reasonable proposals. I urge everyone, whether they are politicians or from the cultural sector, to work with us to persuade our counterparts of our common-sense approach.
Brexit chaos is not just impacting bands and orchestras in the music industry. Given prohibitive new Brexit visa costs, they will need to begin hiring crew and equipment from European suppliers. What hope does the Minister offer those who face losing work because of Brexit?
We are, through DCMS, providing support to the sector. We want to get these issues resolved, but in the meantime we want to do all we can to support businesses and artists, whether they have been impacted because of travel restrictions or the pandemic. That is why DCMS has set up a new forum to work with the sector, to listen to its needs and to act on them, and obviously the Scottish Government are part of that.