Musicians’ Union expresses ‘anger and alarm’ at news that UK ‘turned down’ EU offer of visa-free travel for touring musicians

Monday, January 11, 2021

Leaked information reveals the UK negotiators rejected an offer that would have cut through costs and red tape to enable musicians to tour the Continent

On Sunday 10 January The Independent online broke the news that the UK had ‘turned down’ an offer of visa-free travel for UK musicians wishing to tour the Continent post-Brexit. This follows government statements to the contrary, claiming that it was the EU who had refused to discuss this issue, when it appears that the UK prioritised ending freedom of movement over a £5.8billion industry’s ability access one of its most lucrative touring markets.

Reacting to the revelations the Musicians’ Union expressed anger and alarm at the leaked news saying in a statement: “Having been reassured by Ministers for many months that the creative arts, and the music industry in particular, was a priority and would be front-of-mind during discussions with the EU, a source close to the process has revealed 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 MU’s General Secretary, Horace Trubridge, continued “With the British music business having been devastated by Covid-19 and with no end in sight to the black hole of cancelled concerts, tours, festivals and regular gigs that is the very bedrock of our world-class industry, the news, if true, that our own elected representatives chose to turn down such an offer is nigh-on unbelievable. Ever since the result of the referendum in 2016, the MU has campaigned and lobbied for a Musicians’ Passport that would allow our members and their support crew to make a successful living across Europe. This campaign has been backed by all sides of the industry and current petitions, signed by hundreds of thousands of musicians, industry workers and supporters, illustrate just how vital the freedom of economic movement is to our industry worth £5.8bn to the UK. Negotiators on both sides should continue to acknowledge the importance of cultural life and its huge social and economic value by finding an acceptable solution.”

The Union has demanded that the Culture Minister urgently confirm one way or another whether it was the UK Government that blocked the deal which would have granted UK musicians easy access to EU states for touring. As it is, touring in EU states for UK musicians is going to require costly admin and time-consuming bureaucracy. The MU is also briefing MPs to ask questions of the Government and for genuine support to be given to both live performers and those freelance musicians who remain with no financial assistance during lockdown.

Most alarmingly The Independent reports that "a “standard” proposal to exempt performers from the huge cost and bureaucracy for 90 days was turned down – because the government is insisting on denying that to EU artists visiting this country"

For more info visit

Subscribe from only £6.25

Start your journey and discover the very best music from around the world.


View the Current

Take a peek inside the latest issue of Songlines magazine.

Find out more