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Work Permit-free Travel: Musicians and Performers

Volume 691: debated on Thursday 18 March 2021

What assessment he has made of the effect of the removal of work permit-free travel between the UK and EU for musicians and performers on the UK's creative industries. (913603)

What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on work permit-free travel for musicians and other performers to and from the EU. (913610)

The Government recognise the importance of international touring for our creative and cultural sectors. The DCMS-led working group on creative and cultural touring, which involves sector representatives and other key Government Departments, is working through the issues to ensure that the sector gets both the clarity and the support that it needs.

Musicians are eager to get back to work when restrictions allow, but for those who would normally tour Europe that will require a mountain of paperwork to be negotiated both for themselves and their instruments. This is increasingly urgent as we approach the lifting of lockdown restrictions, with little time left to negotiate bilateral agreements. Can the Minister confirm that Ministers are talking to their EU counterparts about securing visa waivers to allow our musicians to tour Europe freely when restrictions are lifted?

The hon. Lady is right: the end of freedom of movement has inevitably had some consequences for touring artists. We want our cultural and creative professionals to be able to work easily across Europe, in the same way that EU creatives are able to work flexibly in the UK, and we are working very closely with the sector to consider all the available options. I have said right from the start that our door will always be open if the EU is willing to reconsider its position, but we are also working with colleagues across Government and members of our working group on our engagement with different member states. I met FCDO colleagues only yesterday once again to discuss this, and we want to ensure that touring can resume as easy as possible for UK artists.

My constituent George Jackson is a conductor. He has told me that in order to be able to fill last-minute jobs in the EU he would previously have needed just to get on a plane or train and been ready to be with the orchestra the next day, but he says that now he faces expensive and time-consuming paperwork just to achieve the same as before. It seems that the Government have managed to unite artists and creatives across the country in wanting to see the Government sort this out. Even Sir Elton John was urging the Government to fix this mess, so in that spirit can the Minister commit to keeping our creative industries standing rather than letting the sun go down on them?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question, and we understand the strength of feeling on this. The Secretary of State met Sir Elton John recently as well to discuss the issue. We care passionately about finding a solution to this, which is why we set up the DCMS-led working group on creative and cultural touring. It involves representatives from across the creative and cultural touring sectors and all the key Government Departments that have a handle on this, and we are working through all the issues and all the options to help the sectors resume touring as easily as possible when it is safe to do so, but, as the hon. Lady said, the priority is getting touring performers the information and support they need to tour, and, crucially, working bilaterally to ensure the process is as smooth and seamless as possible when they are able to do so.