Call for post-Brexit ‘passport’ for musicians

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Battlefield Band playing in Basel, Switzerland in 2014.

Musicians from Great Britain’s traditional/folk music world are seeking clarity and guidance on what the requirements will be for gigging and working in the European Union (EU) after the Brexit transition period ends on December 31, 2020.

Most musicians and performers rely on touring and performing in the European Union to make a living and with gigs already devastated this year due to the Coronavirus pandemic, there are concerns about how they will be impacted in a possible ‘no deal’ Brexit scenario.

Their representative body, the Musicians’ Union, is calling on the United Kingdom government’s Home Office and Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to back a ‘Musicians’ Passport’ for musicians working in the EU post-Brexit.

A spokesman told us: “Work options for professional musicians in the UK are fairly limited. Without touring in the EU it is difficult to build a viable career. Musicians and performers all over Britain need assurance that we’ll be able to fulfil our bookings and tours in Europe next year and onwards. We are calling on Government officials to publish guidance regarding the work permit and Carnet requirements that may be required for each EU country if there is no deal with the EU.

Breabach playing in Germany in March 2019.

“If every musician has to get a visa and Carnet for every country they visit, it will make any work in Europe impossible to schedule regardless of whether they are an emerging band or a world-renowned orchestra.”

A Carnet – or ATA Carnet (pronounced kar-nay) – is an international customs and temporary export-import document used to clear customs in 87 countries and territories without paying duties and import taxes on merchandise that will be re-exported within 12 months. Carnets are also known as Merchandise Passports or Passports for Goods.

The spokesman added that over 80,000 people had so far signed a petition for a Musicians’ Passport, which, it hopes, would cover all EU member states, be multi-entry and end the need for carnets and other permits. The lack of clarity on the future of musicians working in the EU is already having an impact with some MU members already moving to Europe because they are worried about their future work; to get jobs, to make sure they can get work later, to travel, and to collaborate.

Horace Trubridge.

Horace Trubridge, MU General Secretary, said: “Music and the performing arts rely on the exchange of ideas and interaction between performers of different nationalities. We love working in the EU and we love artists coming over here. If musicians can’t travel easily both ways, our reputation as a country that embraces all arts and culture will be severely damaged. Our members’ ability to earn a living will also be severely affected.”

Elsewhere, in the United States of America, it can cost thousands of pounds to take a band there, and the cost of fast-track visa processing fees have gone up 15% on previous levels. Musicians have voiced their fears that something similar might happen with the European Union.

The EU has threatened legal action if the UK’s House of Commons passes the Internal Market Bill in its current form.