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Musicians in ‘quite desperate’ position over post-Brexit travel rules

The 2019 Glastonbury Festival (Yui Mok/PA)
The 2019 Glastonbury Festival (Yui Mok/PA)

Touring musicians are thinking in “quite desperate” terms about whether they can continue in the industry with post-Brexit travel rules, a sector leader has said.

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, said UK artists are already losing summer bookings due to the challenges faced touring inside the EU.

However, she said the freeze on travel and live performances due to the Covid-19 pandemic offers a “window” in which to resolve the issue.

She appeared in front of Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee in a one-off session about the Government’s handling of negotiations with the EU.

Ms Annetts told MPs: “Since we moved post-Brexit, so post the transition period, I think the adverse impact of Brexit to the creative industries and in particular the freelance community has become even more stark.

“I have been inundated with personal testimony from musicians as to the work that they have lost or are going to lose now in Europe as a result of the new visa and work permit arrangements.

“Some of them are really quite heart-rending, with musicians saying they are thinking of giving up being a musician altogether.”

She called on Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage, who is due to appear later in the session, to “show leadership and put in place a visa waiver agreement”.

Gosport War Memorial Hospital Inquests
Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Ms Annetts said the sector is already seeing the impact of the lack of a cultural work permit deal.

“Cancelled engagements, people losing work,” she said.

“So it is happening now, even though Covid means that people can’t travel, and that is because we are losing engagements from the summer on.

“Musicians are already thinking in quite desperate terms whether they have a career left or whether they are going to have to retrain in some other capacity.”

She added: “At the moment we have got a window, bizarrely enough, because of Covid, to try and sort this out, so we really need to pick this up and move this forward.”

More than 280,000 people have signed a petition calling for a cultural work permit deal to be reached between the Government and EU.

Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Patrick Stewart and Dame Julie Walters were among more than 100 members of the Equity union who published an open letter on Tuesday urging Prime Minister Boris Johnson to secure visa-free EU travel for artists.

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