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Brexit Lobbying Update: A Session Characterised by Tension

In this Brexit update we discuss Lord Frost’s first appearance at the DCMS Select Committee, and our plans for moving forward.

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By Isabelle Gutierrez Published: 30 June 2021 | 2:10 PM
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“Lord Frost did, however, say fixing the issues was a “major priority” and provided a commitment to fixing the situation by the end of the year.” Photo credit: Shutterstock

Lord Frost, the UK’s chief negotiator on Brexit, finally appeared in front of the DCMS Select Committee on Tuesday 29 June along with Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage.

Overall the session was frustrating for musicians and the MU, with Lord Frost reasserting that the UK and EU positions on a touring deal were fundamentally incompatible. He also revealed that it was clear there would be no agreement on musicians working in the EU by November 2020.

Session characterised by tension

The session was characterised by tension between a disdainful Frost and MPs, with Chair of the Committee Julian Knight at one point remarking, “I never thought I’d say this, but I feel sorry for Michel Barnier.”

Lord Frost did, however, say fixing the issues was a “major priority” and provided a commitment to fixing the situation by the end of the year, but he passed the buck to DCMS ministers – saying that DCMS had been taking the lead on resolving issues on post-Brexit travel arrangements for creative workers.

Select Committee Members including Musicians’ Union member Kevin Brennan MP suggested Lord Frost had been trying to avoid questions from the committee, referencing the cancellation of a previous committee hearing arranged earlier this month.

Lord Frost repeated the Government’s line that it had tried to secure visa-free travel in the EU for musicians during negotiations and that it was rejected because the EU would only accept a permanent visa waiver agreement, which he says is incompatible with ending freedom of movement.

Allowing musicians and crew to tour the EU is something that repeated Government ministers have promised us is a priority – and very few voters seriously think that touring musicians are an immigration issue. The MU will continue to put pressure on the Government on this front.

A meeting has been held with Spain

One useful development from the hearing today was confirmation from Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage that a meeting was held with Spain today to try and come to an agreement on visa and work permit requirements.

In comparison to Lord Frost, the DCMS Minister gave the impression that she did want to work on the issues facing musicians and, in light of Lord Frost’s saying that DCMS is taking the lead, we will continue to discuss potential solutions with Caroline Dinenage.

We are also still regularly speaking to MPs to ask them to put down parliamentary questions, and we will ensure that we regularly ask the Minister to keep us updated on any meetings that are taking place with European states.

The Government must play an active role

MU General Secretary Horace Trubridge said:

“It was very disappointing that Lord Frost would not clearly answer the questions put to him.

“It seems that there was little in Lord Frost’s responses that would give the creative industries any confidence that the problems faced by the industry by the deal he negotiated will be pro-actively and responsibly dealt with.

“It seems that Lord Frost is looking to the creative industries to support the Government in finding solutions to a problem that was not of their making and, although this is already happening in a number of ways, we expect the Government to play an active role in this.

“To hear that meetings are only just starting to take place between Government Ministers and their European counterparts, despite the fact that we have been highlighting the serious issues caused by the deal since December, is highly frustrating.”

Shadow Culture Minister Alison McGovern said:

“Pointless red tape is holding back our creatives from touring across Europe. The Tories have had six months to put it right but there has been no progress. The UK leads in music and culture across the world but added costs and unnecessary paperwork is not in the national interest.”

Let us know your story

Reminder – if you have lost work as a result of the touring issues caused by Brexit please do let the MU know so we can feed the information through to MPs who can hold the Government to account, email with your information.

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The Alan Surtees Trust makes up to four awards of £2,000 annually to support performers aged 16 to 30 with projects rooted in, or influenced by, folk or traditional music of all cultures. The deadline for applications is April 30.

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