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Secure visa-free UK-EU travel or face talent moving overseas, ministers told

By Richard Wheeler, PA Parliamentary Editor

UK performers could base themselves overseas if visa-free travel with the EU is not secured, ministers have been warned.

Cabinet Office minister Penny Mordaunt denied “parochial laws” in the UK were to blame and accused Brussels of rejecting proposals to allow musicians and support staff to travel and work in the EU without requiring work permits.

But opposition MPs pressed Westminster to resolve the deadlock in order to aid the UK’s creative sector.

Post-Brexit travel rules that came into force at the beginning of the year do not guarantee visa-free travel for UK musicians in the EU.

Speaking in the Commons, the SNP’s Angela Crawley (Lanark and Hamilton East) said: “Radiohead have called this Government spineless.

“Now, whether it’s Elton John, Ronan Keating, Brian Cox, they contain an all-star line-up of some of our biggest exports, emphasising the importance of touring for musicians at all stages of their careers.

“How does the minister feel about the prospect of making acts decide that they need to base themselves abroad as our parochial laws don’t allow the movement needed to compete on the global stage?”

Ms Mordaunt replied: “It is not our parochial laws.

“During the negotiations, the EU tabled text regarding paid activities which can be conducted without a visa. These proposals would not have addressed our sector’s concerns.

“It didn’t deal with work permits at all and it would not have allowed support staff to tour with artists.

“The only way we’re going to get movement on this is to get the EU to agree to our very reasonable proposals.

“And I’d urge everyone – whether they are politicians, whether they are from the cultural sector – to work with us to persuade our counterparts of our common sense approach.”

SNP MP Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) earlier said: “The UK’s music industry is worth £5.8 billion annually and supports 200,000 jobs, so for a DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) minister to suggest recently that a touring visa was not compatible with Brexit goals has caused huge anger and frustration to many of my constituents who work in the sector who are seeing no benefits of Brexit, only additional costs and red tape.”

Ms Thewliss insisted there must be reciprocal visa-free travel.

Ms Mordaunt replied: “We continue to work with the European Commission but also member states to ensure we can have the kind of opportunities that (Ms Thewliss) describes.

“In the meantime, we do want to support the sector – which is why DCMS has set up the £1.57 billion cultural recovery fund, which is currently supporting 75,000 jobs.”

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