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Artists and Musicians: Working in Europe

Volume 814: debated on Thursday 9 September 2021


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have (1) to reduce the red tape, and (2) to improve access, for artists and musicians based in the United Kingdom seeking to work in Europe.

My Lords, the Government want our creative and cultural industries to be able to tour abroad easily. We have moved at pace to provide clarity. This includes publishing traveller summaries for individual member states and sector-specific landing pages to make relevant guidance easily accessible on GOV.UK. Nineteen member states have confirmed that they allow some visa-free and permit-free short-term tours, and we are actively encouraging the remaining member states to match the UK’s generous rules.

My Lords, the lack of any deal for the creative industries in the Brexit negotiations has caused considerable anger, especially for the many thousands of British musicians who rely on touring Europe for a large part of their income. What work has been done specifically with the eight EU member states that the Government identified earlier in the summer that will require musicians to use visa and work permits to perform? Does the noble Baroness agree that the UK risks losing its dominant position in the European live music market if this situation remains unresolved?

Formal approaches have been made by officials and DCMS to the eight states to which the noble Baroness refers. Ministers are also working closely with the sector to amplify each other’s lobbying efforts. I cannot accept her final assertion that we will lose our place in the world, given the talent of our artists and the work that we are carrying out.

My Lords, in addition to the member states that do not allow visa-free touring for UK musicians and performers, there are numerous complications to access the countries that allow it. With more travel now taking place as Covid restrictions lift, will there be a transition fund to support our live entertainment sector similar to that provided to the fishing industry? Can the Minister indicate what assessment has been made of the implications for our UK music and performance sector resulting from the restrictive arrangements for touring in the EU?

The noble Baroness is right to say that the situation is more complex than previously and that is why we remain disappointed that our initial ambitious approach was not accepted by the EU. She will be aware that we have given a total sum approaching £2 billion to support our creative sector during the pandemic. We are looking at a range of issues for further support and approaches, including proposals for a creative export office.

I declare my interest as chair of the trustees of the Parliament choir. Can the Minister distinguish between talks and negotiations? Talks are what are referred to in the government statement as speaking to countries, including clarifying what happens in the EU withdrawal agreement. However, negotiation is needed here to reduce the red tape and create a frictionless trade for those parts of our economy that are so strong in exporting our artistic examples. How many countries have the UK Government engaged with in negotiation, with the aim of removing red tape such as cabotage, carnets and permits currently strangling our industry?

I am not sure whether I have the exact precision of the noble Lord’s use of language but we have set out that we now have clear guidance around short-term touring with 19 member states. However, we are also focused on the outcomes and achieving ease of movement for our artists, including existing successes such as clarifying, for example, that touring artists and support staff will not be double charged for social security contributions.

My Lords, have not the Proms wonderfully illustrated this summer what an international language music is? Can we make it plain that we in this country are prepared to admit any European musicians, just as we welcomed Haydn and Mozart in the 18th century?

My noble friend is absolutely right and already we have announced, for the reasons he set out, generous criteria for European musicians performing here.

My Lords, does the Minister share the frustration that many in this House feel at not getting from the Government any estimate of the damage being done by the failure to negotiate a deal at the time we left the European Union? If she does, can she give us some figures, first, for the number of British musicians, artists and others who were able to travel unimpeded in 2019 and, secondly, for those who have been able to travel in 2021? Perhaps I may discourage reference to Covid because I have just spent some time in France, where its festivals were going at pace.

I accept the noble Lord’s reservation about referring to Covid but the most important reason for the damage done in the past 12 months has been Covid. As for bands, I am not sure about the noble Lord’s musical tastes but I am informed that bands such as Jungle and Jake Bugg are already booking European tours; festivals are starting; we are both emerging; and established bands will be performing in, for example, Croatia and Spain.

My Lords, the creative arts sector was completely omitted from the EU trade deal, despite being the UK’s largest sector after financial services. The Government should urgently be fixing this gaping hole in their trade agreement. Instead, they are overselling their meaningless mitigations that do little to reduce the catastrophic impact on British performers and companies. Can the Minister please explain why the Government are still painting the signs while the wheels are coming off?

The Government are doing anything but painting the signs and I should like to put on record our thanks to our officials who have been working tirelessly to sort these issues out.

My Lords, the Society of London Theatre estimates that the live entertainment sector was worth more than £11 billion in gross value-added—four times as valuable as the US market for British artists. Given that the sector faces such significant new operational and financial burdens as a result of the trade and co-operation agreement, will my noble friend consider providing extra support, particularly for the smaller and emerging artists who are so disproportionately disadvantaged by the different red tape and work permit requirements that each country imposes?

As my noble friend will have heard, we have already given unprecedented support approaching £2 billion to the sector. We are working tirelessly to make sure that the practical advice works for the sector and we thank it for its co-operation and feedback on that. We are exploring the options for a creative export office.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is clear from industry that any one of a number of concerns, whether visas, permits, carnets, CITES or cabotage, may by themselves make touring impossible through costs, red tape or, in the case of cabotage, the sheer impracticalities involved, as things stand? The department’s August announcement was misleading. This matter urgently needs to be sorted out through further discussions with the EU.

We are keen and our aim is to make touring completely accessible once more to all artists who wish to tour. Our belief is that the best way to do that is through bilateral agreements with individual member states, which is what we are doing.

My Lords, I follow on from the questions of the noble Lord, Lord German, and the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty. The noble Lord, Lord German, asked about talks and negotiations. I am not going to draw a line between them but will pick up on the point about cabotage. Are any active talks or negotiations—however they are described—going on, on either a bilateral or an EU-wide basis, to deal with the issue of cabotage?

The noble Baroness will be aware that during our negotiations with the EU we pressed for a special derogation from the cabotage restrictions. We are working closely on the issue with the Department for Transport, which recently issued a call for evidence. We are working with the department and the sector to resolve the issue.