The theatre and live music are two of the joys of life that have fallen victim to the coronavirus pandemic. After a year of silence in our theatres, concert halls and stadiums, with vaccine programmes moving apace (touch wood!), we should be able to enjoy these delights again in the coming months.
Yet there are a few more barriers to overcome. Thousands of artists, actors and musicians have meanwhile lost their entire livelihoods to COVID. And they also face being caught in the web of post-Brexit bureaucratic absurdity.
This morning, Sir Ian McKellen, Julie Walters and Patrick Stewart were among a group of stars who signed an open letter, describing new visa rules for British artists, actors and theatre workers who want to work in Europe after Brexit as a “towering hurdle” that must be urgently addressed.
Last month, pop stars Elton John and Ed Sheeran were among artists who told the UK government that they had been ‘shamefully failed’ by the new trade deal.
At the root of the problem is the fact that the EU-UK trade deal does not include mutual recognition of professional qualifications, meaning that British musicians and crews are no longer guaranteed visa-free travel and will need extra work permits to play in certain European countries.
Tours in Germany and Spain, for instance, will now require extra visas for paid work, while those in France and the Netherlands will not.
Such restrictions are pointless at best, counterproductive at worst. But, alas, this is what both sides signed up to in December.
A bare-bones trade deal means there are going to be hundreds of examples where firms find that their business model is no longer viable because of the new customs procedures and bureaucracy.
Moving away from ‘frictionless trade’, as Boris Johnson’s government chose to do, inevitably means more forms, more delays and bureaucratic absurdity.
As it happens, Europeans wanting to buy music and musical instruments from British-based retailers, and vice versa, are finding that they now have to pay a hefty customs charge when their delivery arrives, meaning that another cross-border market faces going to the wall.
With wearisome predictability, officials in both the EU and UK are (surprise, surprise) blaming each other, saying they had indeed proposed plans for visa-free touring by musicians, only to see them rejected by their counterparts, though it’s unlikely that this will offer any solace to those who cannot tour across the Channel.
Notwithstanding the fact that entertainment is a multi-billion euro industry and a major provider of jobs, culture and the arts, and public access to them, has an intrinsic value. It really should not be beyond the wit of Boris Johnson’s government and the European Commission to sort this out.
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Look out for…
- European Commission to expected to present a Joint Communication on strengthening the EU’s contribution to rules-based multilateralism / Trade policy review, including WTO reform initiative / Action plan on synergies between civil, defence and space industries / Communication on a bio-defence preparedness programme
- NATO Defence Ministers meeting virtually
Views are the author’s
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]