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Musicians' Union Gives Evidence On Free Movement for Musicians Post-Brexit

Musicians’ Union (MU) General Secretary Horace Trubridge was in Parliament on Wednesday 7 February to talk about free movement for musicians post-Brexit; why we need it, and what it might look like.

Published: 08 February 2018 | 12:00 AM Updated: 28 April 2021 | 4:29 PM
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Musicians’ Union (MU) General Secretary Horace Trubridge was in Parliament on Wednesday 7 February to talk about free movement for musicians post-Brexit; why we need it, and what it might look like.

Musicians have a unique way of working

“The difficulty we have with performers is getting people to understand their atypical work patterns,” says Trubridge. A lot of the work musicians do is speculative. “It’s not simply to earn money. It’s to raise your profile, to extend your fanbase and get more people buying tickets and streaming your work,” he continues. 

Our members state-hop on a regular basis

If you’re on tour, you probably go to more than one country. And if every musician has to get a visa and carnet for every country they visit, it would make any work in Europe impossible to schedule regardless of whether you’re an emerging band or a world-renowned orchestra.

Collaboration is an important part of what we do

“A lot of our members collaborate with other musicians and other writers around the world,” explains Trubridge. “To tie that to some kind of offer of work is not always possible in our sector. But these cross-cultural cross-border activities are essential for our industry to stay ahead of the game.”

And the lack of certainty is already having an impact

“My members are already moving to Europe because they are worried about their future work,” says Trubridge. They are moving to EU member states to get jobs, to make sure they can get work later, to travel and to collaborate.

It’s not just the practical stuff that matters

“There’s a deeper and more significant impact which is a cultural impact,” argues Trubridge, “The UK music industry is very diverse. The old cliché that we punch above our weight is true.”

“We’ve always been – artistically and culturally – a very welcoming country. We love artists coming over here… If we become less welcoming, they simply won’t come. Our reputation as a country that embraces all arts and culture will be severely damaged,” he continues.

That is why we need free movement

Creative and cultural workers are a distinct workforce with specific needs, and visa and customs rules post-Brexit need to account for that.

While free movement as we know it now seems unlikely, one alternative could be a cheap and admin-light single visa system that allows musicians to move freely and easily across EU member states.

If working in the EU becomes as complex and as costly as performing in the US, Horace has grave concerns. “We’re going to be cast adrift as an island, where our members will be able to work domestically and that’s it,” he warns.  

Want to do something about it?
  • Is Brexit affecting your plans for 2019? We want to hear from you.
  • Add your voice to the call for free movement for musicians post-Brexit. Sign the petition.
  • Ask your political representatives to support free movement for musicians post-Brexit. Take action now.
  • Share your experiences working in the EU on social media. Use the hashtag #WorkingInTheEU.
  • Like what you read? Keep up to date with the latest from the MU on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook

MU General Secretary Horace Trubridge gave evidence to the House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee as part of the ‘Brexit: movement of people in the fields of sport and culture inquiry’. Also giving evidence were Mark Pemberton (Director, Association of British Orchestras) and Andrew Hurst (Chief Executive, One Dance UK). Find out more via the


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