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Musicians: Touring the EU

Volume 700: debated on Thursday 16 September 2021

5. What progress the Government have made on supporting touring musicians to continue to work in Europe following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. (903480)

12. What support her Department is providing to help touring musicians to work in Europe following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. (903491)

Ministers, officials and diplomats have been speaking to EU member states to establish arrangements for touring musicians and other artists. I can confirm that at least 19 out of 27 member states allow some visa and permit-free touring. We are continuing to engage with the remaining member states to encourage them to align requirements more closely with our own.

The reality is that there has been limited progress on this matter. South Shields is home to many independent musicians, who used to be able to showcase their talents right across Europe. The cost and bureaucracy involved now prohibits them from doing so. Carry on Touring has written to the Minister with a solution: a pan-European EU visa and work permit waiver. Will she please ask the new Secretary of State to use her first day to implement it?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question; I had a wonderful break up in the north-east and enjoyed her constituency over the summer. I will be happy to ask the Secretary of State to look at that proposal, but we put forward, as part of the EU negotiations, a very fair proposal to our EU member state counterparts, which, unfortunately, they rejected. I know that my former Cabinet Office colleague, the right hon. Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt) did a lot of work in this area as well. There has been a lot of engagement at ministerial level with our counterparts and we intend to continue that work, because we know that this is an important issue and a frustration not just for some of the major touring artists but, more importantly, for some of the smaller groups who may not have the financial funds to be able to negotiate some of the complexities in this area.

North East Fife is home to, among others, StAnza festival and East Neuk festival, where local artists can share their work and experience with performers from Europe and beyond, but clearly—I agree with the hon. Member for South Shields (Mrs Lewell-Buck)—sufficient steps are not being taken. Bureaucracy is stifling this industry. What other steps can the Minister take to ensure that we get people out to Europe and performing?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. As I mentioned, there have been intensive negotiations at a ministerial level with our EU counterparts and a lot of progress has been made. As I mentioned in my opening reply, we now have agreements with 19 of the 27 members states that allow visa and permit-free touring, but we want to make more progress because we know this is a very important issue for musicians and artists across the country.

We welcome all the new Ministers, but I want to be clear on this issue: the Minister said in response to those questions that extensive efforts are being made, yet on 4 August when the Department published a statement describing the situation, the industry was clear that nothing has changed. Will she refer to that 4 August statement on touring and tell me, since the original Brexit deal was signed, exactly what has changed?

I thank the hon. Lady for her passion, and we share that intensity of desire to get this issue sorted for UK musicians. The challenge is our desire to secure the same freedoms for our musicians in the EU that EU musicians are allowed when they come over to the UK. It is a shame, because the quality of musicianship in our country is second to none, so in a sense EU member states are missing out if they continue not to provide the freedoms that we provide to their artists. We will continue our intensive negotiations, but we have to accept that this is not in our control. We put forward a very fair and sensible deal to our EU counterparts and it is for them to agree the same freedoms that we grant them.