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Creative Professionals: EU Tours

Volume 819: debated on Monday 21 February 2022


Tabled by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they intend to have with the European Union concerning the post-Brexit position of the United Kingdom’s creative professionals touring in the European Union.

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Clancarty, and with his permission, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in his name on the Order Paper.

My Lords, the UK made proposals for permit-free touring and for specialist hauliers to be exempt from cabotage limits. Sadly, these were rejected by the European Union. We have raised touring at both the EU-UK Partnership Council and the EU-UK Trade Specialised Committee on Services, Investment and Digital Trade. Our focus is now on supporting the sector, including by working directly with member states. This approach has delivered results, most recently with Spain, meaning that 21 member states now allow some visa-free and permit-free touring.

My Lords, the music industry is frustrated that so little has been done to resolve touring issues in the 13 months since the TCA was applied, and is concerned that increased costs will rule out European touring for artists, companies and orchestras. Will the Government negotiate a cabotage exemption for the cultural and creative sector and an own-account exemption for groups that tour with their own trucks and now face extra costs of £16,000 per day? Does the Minister accept that dual registration, on which the Government are currently consulting, is not a workable solution for a UK orchestra with a single specialist touring vehicle?

My Lords, through our bilateral agreement, 21 of the 27 member states have confirmed that UK musicians and performers do not need visas or work permits for some short-term touring. As I say, we continue our discussions bilaterally with the six remaining member states. On own-account vehicles, such as those used by orchestras, the UK pushed hard for liberalised access for hauliers carrying equipment for cultural events during negotiations but the EU sadly did not agree to our requests. The Department for Transport continues to work across government and with the industry to consider what options may be possible for own-account operators.

My Lords, have the Government considered what they can do to help youth orchestras? For many years, they have toured Europe during the summer, to the enrichment of those who have played in them and the audiences to whom they have played. I declare an interest: both my children were members of the Stoneleigh Youth Orchestra, which travelled all over Europe under its conductor Adrian Brown. I just hope that, when the Government consider the wider questions triggered by the Question from the noble Earl, they will also take into account the important need to continue the cultural and musical links between younger people and Europe.

I strongly agree with the noble Viscount. It is important that people of all ages—professionals and amateurs alike—have the opportunities for cultural exchange. That is why the UK has a generous offer and is welcoming to musicians from around the world. Through our discussions with member states, we have clarified that arrangements are much more workable than at times has been reported—for example, splitter vans are not subject to the TCA market access rules. We continue to work with sector organisations, including youth orchestras.

My Lords, the creative industries are a huge success story in the UK. This year, the UK film industry is set to overtake Hollywood in its capacity. Will the Minister give an update on progress in building a website, so that people who want to tour in Europe can go to a one-stop shop to find out the requirements? Will he commit to publishing the papers that show the points that the UK Government are making to the European Union to try to unblock this blockage?

My noble friend is absolutely right. As we emerge from the pandemic, our creative industries are leading the way in helping us to build back stronger. On GOV.UK, landing pages for each member state explain the rules and the outcome of our negotiations with the remaining six states. I will take his point about publishing documentation back to the department and let him know.

The noble Lord, Lord Strasburger, wishes to contribute virtually and I think this is a good point to call him.

My Lords, the UK’s second largest industry, the creative arts, was left high and dry by the Government’s trade deal with the EU. Touring in Europe is now almost impossible for British musicians and other performers because of a mountain of new red tape and costs. Bilateral deals are not enough. When will the Government do what the Tongan Government were able to do for their performers and negotiate EU-wide cultural exemptions for visas, work permits and trucking restrictions?

The case is not as gloomy as the noble Lord puts it. As I said, 21 of the 27 member states have already clarified their offer, and the UK’s offer to the rest of the world is very generous. We made a similar offer to the one that was rejected by the EU to the EFTA nations, which was agreed, showing that our proposals were not just possible but can be agreed and made to work. Regrettably, the EU did not offer a visa waiver for paid activities during the TCA negotiations and no major G7 economy has agreed to lock in its visa systems with the EU, which was the proposal that was on the table.

My Lords, the Minister will be well aware that the music industry, particularly the classical music industry, is predominantly freelance and very much depends on international reputations being built. What assessment have the Government made of the impact on individual UK performers of the restrictions that they now face when they are likely to be offered work in the European Union? My information is that they are far less likely now to be offered work than they used to be. Can the Minister confirm that? Does he have any information?

The noble Baroness is right to point to the importance of freelancers in these sectors. Through my discussions personally with representatives of the music industry, including classical music organisations and orchestras, we have discussed the challenges faced by freelancers and the support that many organisations were able to give them, thanks to what went to them from the Culture Recovery Fund. As I say, GOV.UK makes clear the rules for travelling to each member state. Our own approach is very welcoming: we want people from around the world to come to the UK and perform here. The information that the noble Baroness seeks is on GOV.UK, listed by individual country.

My Lords, this is the time of year when major, high export-earning European tours are planned, featuring performers such as Ed Sheeran and Harry Styles, but the current rules, particularly relating to cabotage, make the transport and logistical arrangements for such tours impossible. What are the Government doing to address these issues, which are both urgent and specific to the creative performing sector, so that tours such as these can go ahead this year?

We do not believe that an EU-wide agreement would be feasible; instead, we are addressing each area in turn, including those mentioned by the noble Lord, working to provide clarity to the sector and implementing unilateral measures where relevant. For instance, on haulage, the Government are in the process of implementing dual registration to support specialist concert hauliers; and, on carnets, we have clarified that portable musical instruments, carried or in a vehicle, can be transported cost-free and should not require carnets.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that we have got into a situation where musicians are knee-deep in red tape? What are the Government going to do to release them from this, particularly those who do not have major backing—that is, journeymen musicians?

As I say, on GOV.UK, we make as clear as possible for those who are touring or are planning tours the position in individual member states. We are also working with the sector, including representatives from musical organisations of all types and sizes, so that we can understand the challenges that the industry still faces and make sure that we are tackling them.

My Lords, what are the main specific obstacles in coming to agreements with those countries with which we do not have agreements, such as Spain?

We do now have an agreement with Spain—that is the most recent to be added to the list. One of the six which remains is Portugal, which of course had its general election last month. That has slowed down the negotiations there, but those are continuing at ministerial and official level.

My Lords, perhaps this is an apposite moment for the House to acknowledge the contribution and sad death of Jamal Edwards, who has done so much to promote a new wave of musicians and artists to a global audience. Awarded an MBE at 24, he was an inspiration to a new generation. With that in mind, perhaps the Minister can tell us what support Her Majesty’s Government are giving to young new artists who are not signed to a label but who want to tour and take their first steps towards performing to overseas audiences. The new Secretary of State has said that a package of specific help is coming. When will she deliver on that promise and help to resolve the EU’s continuing border issues?

I was very sad to see the news about Jamal Edwards this morning, dying so tragically young. The Government are committed to making sure that emerging artists and new talent have opportunities. We are working on a refresh of the national plan for music education under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lady Fleet, and with the Department for Education to make sure that opportunities in schools as well as outside are available to everybody. Through our working group, we are engaging with the sector to make sure that those who face challenges in touring know that the Government are working to address them.