Lord Frost, the UK's Brexit Minister and Chief Negotiator with the EU, had been due to answer questions today – a day after a meeting with European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic and less than a week after publishing a controversial article about the Northern Ireland protocol.
Given the impact of Brexit on musicians' touring prospects and livelihoods, and the confusion which still surrounds the implications of the UK-EU trade agreement for the music industry, it was hoped that this Select Committee session would throw some much-needed light on the subject.
The scrutiny of the DCMS Committee, who are well-versed in problems raised by musicians and music industry campaign groups, would have been very welcome. To date, Lord Frost has also declined to meet with MU and ISM representatives to discuss the impact of Brexit on musicians.
Huge levels of cost and bureaucracy
The ISM and the MU are both extremely disappointed that Lord Frost has deprived MPs of the chance to raise with him the grave issues arising from the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (‘the TCA’).
Those issues cover everything from the ability of musicians to tour in Europe to how they transport their instruments. The terms agreed by the UK Government are causing huge levels of both cost and bureaucracy to musicians and the wider creative industries.
The music sector has identified a number of solutions to help get the sector moving again, ranging from agreeing a Visa Waiver Agreement with the EU to holding bilateral talks with key EU states on work permits.
Tired and frustrated by empty promises
ISM Chief Executive Deborah Annetts, said:
“As Lord Frost is at the heart of negotiations, his absence deprives MPs of a vital opportunity to find out what the UK Government is doing to make sure the music sector is not destroyed by Brexit. Lord Frost must urgently schedule a new appearance to answer the Select Committee’s questions, to prevent further harm to the UK’s creative industries.”
MU General Secretary Horace Trubridge, said:
“Since the beginning of the year we have been promised that a deal would be done to remove the enormous barriers that musicians are now facing when performing in EU member states. We have become tired and frustrated by the empty promises from ministers, and the PM himself, but we were pinning our hopes on this meeting and a subsequent breakthrough.
“What has become starkly clear is that this government cares not a jot for the UK creative industries, either at home or abroad, and the treasury will pay a heavy price in the future if ministers don’t wake up and realise that they are squandering the future prospects of one of this country’s most precious assets.”
MU Deputy General Secretary Naomi Pohl, added:
"Lord Frost has dodged this meeting at the last minute due to an apparent diary clash which could have been identified much sooner than today.
“It appears that he does not see addressing the concerns of the music industry, musicians and other freelance workers who rely on touring in the EU, as a priority. Our industry is worth £5.8bn to the economy, supports 200,000 jobs and generates £2.9bn in exports, whilst the creative industries secure an extremely valuable £111bn.
“We therefore have many outstanding questions and concerns about the impact of Brexit on touring which the Select Committee members would have addressed. We hope Frost's appearance will be rescheduled as soon as possible.
“The meeting, which has been planned for a long time was key to getting our message across. This is a massive let down, not just to the music industry but the entire creative industries.”