Lancaster musicians bang drum for easy access to Europe

Lancaster Music Festival co-ordinator Ben Ruth.
Lancaster Music Festival co-ordinator Ben Ruth.
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Concern has been raised by Lancaster musicians over their ability to tour in Europe post-Brexit.

Musicians say the re-introduction of visas or work permits could mean more random stops at borders and the potential for extended waiting periods which could last hours.

Lancaster musician Jon Moore said: “Being very long in the tooth, I can remember before the Schengen Convention (1990), having to prepare paperwork for customs when touring with bands.

“We could be randomly stopped at any national border, and be made to to wait as long as the local officials wished, which might be hours.

“Thankfully that has gone, but after Brexit it could return. If you added in visas, and work permits, which would have to be applied for, then checked in each country, life would be impossible.”

Cat Smith, MP for Lancaster, said she had met with the Musicians Union in Westminster and pledged her support, saying it was vital we got the best possible deal for the UK’s music industry.

She said: “I am urging the Government to ensure that they can continue to be able to travel easily across Europe post-Brexit for touring and performing with minimum administrative burdens.”

But Lancaster Music Festival organiser Ben Ruth, who is a music promoter working with artists across the world, said musicians need not worry too much.
He said: “Provided the UK remains in the EEA (European Economic Area) there shouldn’t be a problem.

“I think it highly unlikely the already phenomenally overstretched Home Office will extend Tier 5 work permits to EEA nationals.

“If they don’t I therefore think it highly unlikely that the EU would then impose work permit requirements on UK musicians.

“If we do leave the EEA I fully expect there will still be a visa waiver for UK. Also, bear in mind most EEA countries don’t bother with work permits for musicians from visa waiver countries if under three months stay. Only USA, Australia, New Zealand and UK have such work permits. Canada scrapped theirs last year. So basically I don’t think there’s anything to worry about even if we do leave the EEA.”

The creative industries are worth over £87bn in GVA – more than oil and gas, life sciences and aerospace combined – and is the fastest-growing sector of the economy, employing 1 in 11 people. The UK has the largest cultural economy in the world relative to GDP and is the largest producer of recorded music in Europe and is the second largest exporter of music (after the US).

Horace Trubridge, Musicians’ Union General Secretary says: “British musicians have long enjoyed easy access to touring in Europe, as UK venues and festivals have benefited from easy access to European performers. We know from touring in the US and elsewhere, that visas and other restrictions impose significant costs and administration, and occasionally considerable financial loss when visas aren’t processed in time. We are calling on MPs and the Government to help secure a deal that will ensure ease of movement for touring and performing post-Brexit”.