Brexit: British Musicians Visa-Free Tour to Norway & More

Brexit: British Musicians Visa-Free Tour to Norway & More

As a result of Brexit, British musicians are required to have a work permit and visa, as well as customs documents like carnets for their equipment to tour in the European Union. 

The British government promised that it would work closely with countries across the EU to support the mobility issues of the performing sector.

On 4 June, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced that a new frontier had been opened for British musicians who want to play live in Europe.

Thanks to the “ambitious approach” to post-Brexit negotiations, British artists and their crews can now tour without visa requirements in Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

The deal comes after Brexit meant performers must obtain costly permits to play in many European countries. The British artists are now facing a future where touring across Europe is not financially viable, cutting off a major source of income.

Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are not part of the EU but are in the European Economic Area (EEA), which follows the same free movement rules as the rest of the EU members.

Musicians Reactions

Touring musicians responded to Dowden’s announcement as “tragic” and “a joke”.

Iceland’s population is roughly the same as Wigan. Liechtenstein has a similar number of residents as Wilmslow. If it wasn’t tragic it would be funny.

The Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess

However, the UK government pointed out that the deal with Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein was only one part of an overall effort to reopen Europe to British musicians. It added that the arrangement was based on the same UK offer that the EU turned down during Brexit negotiations last year.

UK Music’s chief executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin was among those who welcomed the deal. While cautioning that “we have yet to see the final details”, he said

If the UK can reach agreements to allow musicians and crew to tour these countries, it can reach similar deals with EU members.

Jamie Njoku-Goodwin

Mounting Pressure

Pressure has been mounting on the government to cut the red tape holding back musicians who want to tour the EU post-Brexit.

Under the terms of the deal, British bands can tour Europe for up to 90 days in a 180-day period. But shows in Portugal and Spain, for instance, will now require extra visas for paid work, while those in France, Germany and the Netherlands will not.

Transporting stage equipment and instruments across borders may also incur extra fees.

Stars including Ed Sheeran, Sir Elton John, Nicola Benedetti, Liam Gallagher, Radiohead and Judith Weir, Master of the Queen’s Music, wrote to the government demanding action on the issue in January.

A month later, a House of Commons survey of musicians who had signed a petition calling for visa-free touring found that 81% of respondents said they were now likely to stop touring Europe.

Non-musical performers are affected too. The National Theatre has shelved plans to tour Europe due to uncertainty over obtaining visas, and actors including Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Julie Walters have urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to intervene.

Speaking to MPs in May, Mr Dowden revealed he had spoken to every EU member state since January, and that the picture now seemed “much more positive” than was first thought.

Further information may come to light later this week when the House of Commons digital, culture, media and sport select committee questions Brexit Minister Lord Frost about the issue.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Do you think it is possible to strike a visa-free access deal for musicians between the EU and the UK? Talk to us in the comment section below.

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