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EU touring just got a whole lot harder

If Covid hasn’t been bad enough, Brexit could be destroying industry for many technicians and companies

We are still trying to fathom what’s what on post-Brexit requirements. They certainly throw-up visa and trucking
issues. N2 asked Newbury tour manager MICK BROWN how these might affect an industry already on its knees. Minister for Digital and Culture Caroline Dinenage said she was committed to work with music organisations to find workable solutions to these critical issues, including mobility

THERE has been some disquiet among the live music touring community with post-Brexit requirements for work visas for
touring musicians and crew. There has been a lot of discussion in the news and social media and, on February 8, there was a Parliamentary Briefing looking into this after 300,000 people signed a petition on visa-free touring.

The UK live events industry has brought in over £70bn a year. I have spent my career, 35 years, touring Europe and the rest of the world before and now, hopefully, after Brexit. While we were in the EU we had visa-free travel – now we are looking at having to get visas for some countries in the EU and now also having to use a ATA Carnet (a temporary import and export licence) when leaving the UK and entering the EU. Visas and a Carnet will add to the cost of touring and will affect the smaller artists who may be on their first tour, the most.

As an example, when I first toured Europe, the band I was working for had their first show in Cologne, Germany. Because we were not in the EU then, this meant that we had to get the Carnet stamped at each border. So that’s stamp out of the UK at Dover, into France, out of France into Belgium, out of Belgium in to Holland, out of Holland into Germany. This was kind of OK, but relied on there being no queues at the borders, the borders being open and the custom officers knowing what a Carnet was. This meant it could add hours to your journey with a chance of missing the first gig if you had been delayed. You therefore had to leave in good time and that cost more in crew wages and any possible rental costs.

There is concern that now we would have to do the same, thankfully you only have to stamp in out of the UK into the first port of entry into the EU and do the reverse when returning home.

Regarding visas for travel in 2021, luckily and at the moment, there are 14 EU countries that have no visa requirements and limited to between 14 and 90 days. With other countries it is currently uncertain regarding visa requirements, but countries where you do need work visas, which include Portugal and Spain, this will add to the cost of touring.

We are used to having to get visas to work in countries out of the EU, North America, Australia, South America and other countries. We also had to make sure social security forms for France and Italy were in order. The fear is that the extra cost and admin will be prohibitive for many smaller artists.

Large scale shows – arena venues with more than 10,000 capacity – will probably be able to swallow up the cost.
It is also distinctly possible that EU productions will not call on UK suppliers or technical crew to work if there is an extra cost to them. I have worked with some non-UK based artists in the past, one of them – Bob Mould, US citizen (ex Husker Du, Sugar) – has called on me for many tours over the years. Usually we would have a string of dates in the UK and the EU. I would rent a tour bus and the band equipment in the UK, do our shows around Europe and return the
equipment back to the supplier at the end of the tour.

I can see that now, any UK shows will be treated as one-off events and the tour will originate in mainland Europe. UK suppliers will lose out and it’s possible that people like me will not be asked to work when the artist can get somebody in the EU and use them for the whole tour.

The visa question is a worry, but the biggest problem for touring the EU is for trucking the equipment around Europe. The rushed Brexit deal has meant that UK-based trucking companies will only be able to do two drops of their load before returning to the UK. Local EU hauliers would be expected to continue to supply the tour. So any tours which visited most
countries in the EU, say, over three weeks, would be left with unfamiliar trucks and drivers and the cost of trucks returning to the UK. Financially and environmentally this is not good.

There are lots of other questions on touring Europe now and the goalposts seem to be moving all the time as well. The Government have a responsibility to make sure this industry is not forgotten and they need to re-negotiate with the EU now on the visa and trucking issues which, like other industries – sea food for example – need to be able to move freely if we are not to see wide scale business closures.

As if Covid hasn’t been bad enough for our industry, this could be destroying for many technicians and companies.

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