It has been an extremely busy week on the Brexit front, with an argument erupting between the UK Government and the EU on who is responsible for the lack of an exemption from work permit rules for touring musicians.
Initially it seemed that a proposal to exempt performers for 90 days from the cost and burden of work permits was turned down by the UK negotiators.
The Government has since challenged this and Minister for Culture Caroline Dinenage said that the UK had made a proposal to the EU that was based on the MU’s ‘Musicians’ Passport’ idea, which shows that the hundreds of letters sent by MU members to their MPs did have a real impact. There were helpful interventions from Bambos Charalambous MP, Matt Western MP and Patrick Grady MP amongst others.
Our members urgently need all parties at the table
Clearly both sides agree that some arrangement should be made to ensure that musicians can still tour, but there seems to have been disagreement over the length of time allowed permit free and other details.
In any case, a blame game in the press is not helping the thousands of musicians who are facing increased touring costs working in the EU at a time of huge economic hardship.
What our 32,000 members need urgently is for all parties to come to the table, and agree work permit-free travel and all the principles in the Musicians' Passport
Lobbying actions this week
The MU has written to the following Ministers urging them to speak to the EU to come to a solution:
- Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
- Priti Patel, Secretary of State for the Home Department
- Michael Gove – Cabinet Minister on the UK negotiating team
- Penny Mordaunt – Cabinet Minister on the UK negotiating team
We also spoke to a number of MPs this week, and we were delighted that MU friend Kevin Brennan MP used his question at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday to quiz the Prime Minister on this issue and secure a meeting between senior MPs.
In his response to Kevin, Boris Johnson acknowledged that the issue of touring is “extremely important,” and that he knows “our friends in the EU will be wanting to go further to improve things.”
The MU has therefore written to the Prime Minister thanking him for this response and urging him to act without delay. This was covered by the BBC, who quoted Horace directly:
"Our industry has been incredibly badly hit by the Covid-19 crisis and if our members are also restricted by additional costs and red tape on touring once things start to go back to normal, we will see a real downturn in what is a unique British success story: Music."
Keep up the pressure on the Prime Minister
Boris Johnson is under increasing pressure from all sides of the House of Commons, with the Musicians’ Union briefing MPs to ask questions on your behalf.
Now we need to keep this going and keep the pressure on the Prime Minister to act fast.