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Gigging and Touring Before the EU

Over 15,000 people have signed the Musicians’ Union (MU) petition for a touring visa for musicians working in the European Union post-Brexit.

Published: 31 October 2018 | 12:00 AM Updated: 05 July 2021 | 4:31 PM

Over 15,000 people have signed the Musicians’ Union (MU) petition for a touring visa for musicians working in the European Union post-Brexit.

We know that government wants to end free movement and regain control of our borders, even if no-one is quite sure what that means in practice.

One thing we do know is what it could mean for musicians. As a community of over 30,000 musicians, a bad deal or no deal scenario could threaten our members’ ability to make a sustainable living.

We know because many of our members recall gigging and touring in the days before the European Union.

Back then, musicians had to get carnets

A carnet is a legal document that shows you can temporarily move goods outside the UK – for example, any instruments or gear you need to tour or perform.

Different countries have different regulations, but an ATA carnet that covers 70 countries currently costs £325.96 plus a deposit. It is valid for one year. Imagine needing one of those every time you need to go to Europe to perform.

Some people say that’s never going to happen. The problem is it did happen, and it is still happening in many countries. For example, if you are a DJ in Gibraltar and you want to work in Spain, you have to fill in a carnet so that you can take your gear across the border.

It adds expense to a trip – but also, potentially time, as equipment and gear are checked at the border. Just imagine being on tour with an orchestra and having to go through every single case on the bus.

We also know that visas could be a problem

They can take time and resources to get, and how much time and how much it takes is not always in our control. For example, ‘fast-track’ or premium processing fees for US visa applications have gone up from $1225 to $1410. That’s a 15% increase.

Right now, you can hop in your car, throw your stuff into your van, catch a bus, a train, or a flight that probably costs less than a train, and go to Europe and get to work.

That freedom, that flexibility, is so important for musicians across the music ecology, from bands and musicians just starting out to world-class orchestras and everyone in between.

We are not fear mongering – recent reports in the news suggest that, in the case of a no deal scenario, British people will have to pay for a visa to go to Europe and there’s no word on what a working visa would look like as opposed to a tourist one.

Are you one of our 5000 members aged 30 and under?

Polling shows 73% of 18-24 year olds voted Remain. Some of you were not even given a say. But this is your future, most of your working life, that is potentially under threat.

Even Jacob Rees Mogg know that – he recently said it could take 50 years to get the benefit of Brexit.

Luckily there are a few things you can do to be sure your voice is heard

Support a touring visa for musicians working in the EU post-Brexit.

Government told us free movement has to end. So we are proposing a touring visa.

Any EU touring visa must be affordable, multi-entry and admin-light, for all of the reasons we outlined above.

We know it’s possible, and it has widespread support. We know because we spoke to the Minister for the Creative Industries, and she is taking the idea to the Home Office.

We also know because we went to Conservative Party Conference and, whether people were Leave or Remain, they got it.

If Brexit is happening, musicians still need to be able to work.

If you agree, add your voice to the call. Sign the petition via

Once you’ve done that, ask your MP to sign it too using Write To Them’s email tool.

Wish it wasn’t happening?

So do we. The Musicians’ Union campaigned heavily for Remain because – whatever your ideological perspective – that’s what makes the most sense for working musicians.

So, while we accept the result of the referendum and are working to protect musicians’ rights through Brexit, we are also supporting a People’s Vote on the final deal.

We support a People’s Vote because we are a trade union. And when we negotiate a deal with an employer on behalf our members, it then goes to a vote. Our members look at the new terms and decide whether or not they like them. It’s an essential part of our democracy, and we think it should be the same with Brexit.

Find out more about the People’s Vote campaign.

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