Readers may have observed a recent dispute over musicians’ touring in the EU. Critics of Brexit allege that the government has not done enough to make European tours by musicians easier. The issue is cross-border visa-free travel. Although musicians can obtain work visas in individual member states, the process is costlier and more time-consuming than before. The UK government was even accused of ‘rejecting’ such visa-free travel arrangements.
Yet it takes two to negotiate. The EU’s refusal to allow visa-free travel for performers was based, it says, on the UK’s refusal ‘to include a chapter on mobility’ in the trade and co-operation agreement. This rings hollow – other professionals have been exempted from these requirements. If the EU were sincere in its desire to encourage art and culture, it could easily negotiate a separate agreement on the issue without a full-scale chapter in the treaty. The UK government, indeed, attempted to do precisely that – but was rebuffed.
Finally, although this is undoubtedly a setback for many musicians, it’s worth putting into perspective. Visa and travel requirements remain the prerogative of individual member states, many of which like France have fairly liberal arrangements for performance. It may thus be possible, once the dust settles, to negotiate bilateral deals with some of the more important destinations for British artists.