Member of Parliament for the Cities of London & Westminster Nickie Aiken gave the speech below earlier today in a parliamentary debate discussing Visa-free work permit travel for touring professionals and artists across the Europe Union.
Following Britain’s transition period with the European Union ending, British artists and performers now face having to apply for multiple visas and work permits for a European Tour. For many, this makes touring Europe currently not an option.
During her speech, Nickie called on the UK government and the EU to come to a third country agreement to remove the barrier of having to get visas and work permits off artists and touring professionals.
You can watch Nickie’s speech in full above or read a transcript of it below.
Thank you, Chair. And I'm delighted that the Petitions Committee is hosting this virtual debate, and I'd like to thank my 1,112 constituents who signed the petition.
As honourable members have outlined, as of the 1st of January, UK musicians can no longer travel and work freely across the EU. It is hugely disappointing that the EU Commission chose not to pursue what appears to have been a sensible solution suggested by the UK government at the beginning of the Brexit negotiations to allow freedom of movement for performers.
British musicians, including our world-leading orchestras, bands and singers, bring so much, both in terms of their cultural and economic contribution, but they and their supporting managerial and technical staff must now abide by 27 different sets of rules and regulations.
What might be required as a permit in Berlin may not in Paris. The new rules are painfully bureaucratic. Instruments transported by truck or cargo, for example, will, as we know, require carnets, or passports for goods, to be wet stamped by border control officials, whilst portable musical instruments, for professionals, do not.
For touring musicians used to frictionless travel between several countries, these new restrictions are expensive red tape and threaten the entire industry. The London Symphony Orchestra, based in the Barbican Centre in the City of London, in my constituency, was founded in 1904 and is the oldest of London's symphony orchestras. But the present restrictions on live performances combined with these future challenges to touring in the EU threatens its very existence.
What they need is a reciprocal agreement that allows the free passage of performers, equipment, and crew. A reciprocal visa waiver already exists for performers and crews between the EU and other third countries, and the government should aim for equivalence, to secure visa-free travel for touring musicians.
Under the new restrictions, UK trucks carrying touring musicians' equipment are restricted to one international movement, followed by only two further permitted stops before being required to return home. This limit is arbitrary and punishing. Without multiple stops, it simply cannot be a European tour. And the UK concert haulage industry would be devastated.
I hope my Honourable Friend will discuss with her European counterparts about extending the current limit of stops on the continent for any registered vehicle. The UK is a global leader in this sector and every step taken to allow both UK and EU musicians to tour freely throughout the UK must be done to support our economic recovery, preserve the prosperous future, and uphold our global influence in the music industry across the world.