Music stars slam UK’s ‘shameful’ failure on EU touring rules

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Elton John

FILE – In this Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020 file photo, Elton John performs “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” nominated for the award for best original song from “Rocketman” at the Oscars, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Dozens of U.K. music stars including Elton John, Ed Sheeran and conductor Simon Rattle on Wednesday Jan. 20, 2021, say musicians have been “shamefully failed” by the British government, which has left them facing post-Brexit restrictions on touring in the European Union. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)

LONDON (AP) — Dozens of U.K. music stars including Elton John, Ed Sheeran and conductor Simon Rattle say musicians have been “shamefully failed” by the British government, which has left them facing post-Brexit restrictions on touring in the European Union.

In a letter published Wednesday in the Times of London, more than 100 musicians including Sting, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters and Roger Daltrey of The Who, along with the heads of major arts institutions, said the new U.K.-EU trade deal that took effect Jan. 1 has “a gaping hole where the promised free movement for musicians should be.”

Britain’s departure from the EU means that U.K. citizens can no longer live and work freely in the 27-nation bloc. Tourists do not need visas for stays of up to 90 days, and some short business trips are also allowed. But artists and musicians have not been included in the deal.

Britain and the EU disagree about who is to blame for the omission, each accusing the other of rejecting a deal for touring artists.

The new rules mean U.K. performers have to comply with differing rules in the 27 EU nations, negotiating visas for musicians and permits for their equipment. Many say the costs and red tape will make it impossible for British artists to perform on the continent, endangering the country’s status as a cultural powerhouse.

The musicians’ letter said the new expense and bureaucracy will make “many tours unviable, especially for young emerging musicians who are already struggling to keep their heads above water owing to the COVID ban on live music.”

Scottish National Party lawmaker Pete Wishart, a former member of rock band Runrig, said Tuesday in the House of Commons that musicians and artists were “mere collateral in this government’s obsession in ending freedom of movement” and controlling immigration once it left the EU.

Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage acknowledged the situation was “incredibly disappointing,” but said “the door is open” to talks with the EU on a deal for musicians. She resisted calls from the opposition to publish details of the proposals made by the U.K. during negotiations that the bloc allegedly rejected.

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