Stars from Radiohead, Blur and The Chemical Brothers tell Boris Johnson to fix Brexit touring crisis

Stars from Radiohead, Blur and The Chemical Brothers tell Boris Johnson to fix Brexit touring crisis

Stars from Radiohead, Blur and The Chemical Brothers tell Boris Johnson to fix Brexit touring crisis

Stars from Radiohead, Blur and The Chemical Brothers have joined a new campaign urging Boris Johnson to fix the touring crisis caused by his Brexit deal.

They are among more than 200 artists demanding help with the daunting barriers – costly visas and work permits, plus equipment red tape – that have “put one of UK’s finest exports at risk”.

In January, the prime minister vowed to solve the crisis but, as The Independent revealed in April, no meaningful talks have taken place and no progress has been made.

Anger was fuelled when Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, boasted about a deal to rescue visa-free music tours to tiny Liechtenstein – the agreement the UK rejected for the 27-nation EU.

Now the #LetTheMusicMove campaign aims to pile on pressure to end the stalemate and secure financial support for a sector reeling from the twin blows of Covid and leaving the EU.

David Rowntree, the drummer with Blur, said the Britpop band would have been denied the opportunity to tour the EU if the obstacles put up now had existed in the 1990s.

“We just jumped on a ferry with no restrictions for us or our gear. If we were starting out today trying to do the same, we simply wouldn’t be able to afford it.

“The UK government has to take this issue seriously and support touring artists. The future of British music is at stake.”

Simone Butler, the bass player with Primal Scream, said: “To make it financially and logistically unrealistic to do shows and festivals will be halting the livelihoods and careers of generations of musicians.”

And the rock band Skunk Anansie said: “After the extreme financial impact of the pandemic, touring can and will be the lifesaver for many bands, artists, and crews. We need action.”

Other well-known artists backing the campaign include Bob Geldof, Annie Lennox, Mark Knopfler, Midge Ure, Annie Lennox, New Order, Anna Calvi, Peggy Seeger and Portishead’s Beth Gibbons and Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason.

Launched by the Music Managers Forum and the Featured Artists Coalition, it raises the alarm over:

* The “logistical nightmare” of musicians and their teams requiring visas and work permits far in advance.

* A three-stop limit on touring vehicles before they must return home from the EU – making the majority of tours that start in the UK impossible.

* A hugely expensive goods passport – a carnet – including a bond for instruments and equipment.

In January, Mr Johnson told MPs that David Frost was in charge of the crisis, but his Brexit negotiator has handed the baton to Mr Dowden, the culture secretary.

“This is a DCMS [Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport] lead,” Frost told the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee.

The peer’s “responsibility” was to “maximise the trade-offs” if a particular country might be willing to ease some paperwork, and if there was “anything else they want from us”, he said.

Mr Dowden has claimed that 17 of the 27 EU countries have taken steps to reduce costs and red tape – but has refused to release any details.


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