UK culture secretary Oliver Dowden is examining post-Brexit financial support for the music industry, which is facing higher costs and new red tape when organising tours in the EU.
But Mr Dowden urged musicians on Wednesday to use their “star power” to lobby the EU to ease new visa and work permit rules, which have complicated tours for British artists ranging from veteran rock groups to fledgling bands.
More than 100 leading British musicians said the UK government had “shamefully failed” their industry during negotiations on the new UK-EU trade deal. It has no provisions for the free movement of artists.
They called for Mr Dowden to offer help to the sector, arguing it was far bigger than the fishing industry, which has been given £23m in government compensation for Brexit-related disruption.
Mr Dowden, in a meeting with industry leaders, said he would consider the case for government support where artists faced extra costs. The culture secretary’s allies said this could include support to help them organise tours outside Europe as part of a wider “export drive”.
The EU says it made an “ambitious” offer to the UK during the future relationship negotiations under which artists, journalists and sports people would have had special travel rights, but that it was rejected by London. “Of course, you have to be two to reach an agreement,” EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said last week.
Mr Dowden told industry leaders that he would look at ways to “iron out” issues that had arisen since Brexit took full effect on January 1. He announced a working group to find solutions.
Previously he has blamed Brussels for the stand-off, which has left British musicians and their crews needing visas and possibly work permits to perform in EU member states.
The music industry vented its frustration in a letter to The Times, with some of the UK’s biggest musical names, including Ed Sheeran and Sir Simon Rattle, denouncing the British government’s “negotiating failure”.
The industry accepts that established acts would survive the new arrangements but that it would pose a big problem for up and coming bands trying to make a name in Europe.
Mr Dowden argues Britain has made it easy for EU artists to perform in the UK after Brexit, and wants the European Commission to persuade the bloc’s member states to offer reciprocal arrangements.
The EU has pointed to the offer that it made to the UK last March that would have addressed the problems facing musicians. It proposed enhanced visa waiver privileges for artists “performing an activity on an ad hoc basis”.
The UK has argued that the Brussels’ offer did not include music industry support staff and would still have allowed EU member states to require work permits for artists.
People close to the future relationship talks on the EU side said that, while the UK did make its own proposal for musicians in the talks, it would not have solved the visa issue.
“The UK refused to include a commitment on visa-free short stays in the trade and co-operation agreement,” said a Commission spokesperson. “As a result, it is now up to each member state to determine if a visa is required for short-stay visits for the purpose of carrying out a paid activity.”