EU touring artists, players will need visas to perform in the UK from 2021

Home Office pours cold water on artists’ hopes of retaining free movement between the UK and the EU.

LONDON — EU artists and entertainers may need visas to perform in the United Kingdom from January 2021, the Home Office has said.

The department announced Tuesday that artists and sports players from the EU would be subject to the same rules that currently apply to their non-EU peers once the Brexit transition comes to an end in December.

The Home Office, who declined to comment on the record before publication, later got in touch to explain that unpaid performers from EU countries wanting to come for up to six months and those staying less than a month would still be able to come “without the need for formal sponsorship or a work visa.”

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“Musicians and performers are a valued and important part of U.K. culture,” a government spokesman said. “The U.K.attracts world class artists, entertainers and musicians and that’s not going to change under the new system.”

At the moment, artists and their crews can travel freely from the EU to the U.K. and vice versa without applying for work permits or visas. But once freedom of movement ends, both EU and non-EU artists will need a Tier 5 visa in order to perform in the U.K., take part in competitions or auditions, participate in promotional activities, attend workshops, give talks about their work, and take part in cultural events or festivals.

With this announcement, briefly mentioned in a policy paper, the Home Office has poured cold water on the hopes of the British live industry to achieve reciprocal arrangements between the U.K. and the EU that resemble freedom of movement as much as possible, enabling artists to continue to move around with their instruments and merchandising without facing extra paperwork or costs. Music industry groups in the U.K. had called for a two-year working visa to allow artists to travel freely around the EU and the U.K. for work.

The decision also reveals differences of opinion within the government, after Culture Minister Nigel Adams said last month “it was absolutely essential” to protect free movement for artists post 2020 in an interview with Music Week.

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, said they are “deeply disappointed” that free movement for musicians and other artists from the EU appeared to have been ruled out.

“We would ask the U.K. government to reconsider our call for a two-year, multientry visa,” she said. “Any future immigration system does not exist in isolation and has huge implications for the negotiation of EU and U.S. trade deals and reciprocal arrangements. It is vital that any immigration system supports musicians who will need to tour in the EU post-Brexit.”

The House of Lords’ EU home affairs sub-committee warned in 2018 that unless effective reciprocal arrangements can be agreed between the U.K. and EU, the U.K. may see a decline in skilled cultural sector workers entering the country from the EU.

It added that “such a development would be to the detriment of the U.K. cultural sector, and represent a significant loss to the audiences that enjoy seeing talent from across Europe performing in the U.K.”

This article has been updated with additional information from the Home Office. 

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