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Door open to talks with EU on visa arrangements for musicians, minister says

Culture minister Caroline Dinenage said the Government is willing to discuss the issue again.

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A brass quintet from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on the Spanish Steps in Wembley Park (David Parry/PA)

A brass quintet from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on the Spanish Steps in Wembley Park (David Parry/PA)

A brass quintet from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on the Spanish Steps in Wembley Park (David Parry/PA)

A minister said “the door is open” if the EU was willing to “consider the UK’s very sensible proposals” on visa arrangements for musicians.

Culture minister Caroline Dinenage said the EU rejected the UK’s plan, but said the Government is willing to discuss the situation again.

The UK’s post-Brexit travel rules, which came into force on January 1, do not guarantee visa-free travel for musicians.

SNP MP Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) said musicians are being treated as “mere collateral” by the Government.

Referring to his days touring in Europe with the band Runrig, Mr Wishart told the Commons: “Touring Europe means everything to our artists and musicians.

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Benny Anderrson and the Orsa Fiddlers on stage during BBC Radio 2’s Thank You For The Music, A Celebration of the Music of ABB’ show, in Hyde Park central London (Yui Mok/PA)

Benny Anderrson and the Orsa Fiddlers on stage during BBC Radio 2’s Thank You For The Music, A Celebration of the Music of ABB’ show, in Hyde Park central London (Yui Mok/PA)

Benny Anderrson and the Orsa Fiddlers on stage during BBC Radio 2’s Thank You For The Music, A Celebration of the Music of ABB’ show, in Hyde Park central London (Yui Mok/PA)

“The thrill of that first tour, crammed into the Transit van with all your gear, four to a room in a cheap hotel in Paris, Rotterdam or Hamburg.

“Using what’s left of the fee for a post-gig beer.

“The dream that when you come back it will be a lavish tour bus, staying in five-star hotels.

“Gone, all gone.

“Musicians and artists mere collateral in this Government’s obsession in ending freedom of movement.”

Responding to the urgent question, Ms Dinenage said: “This is incredibly disappointing news for the music sector, it is not the deal that we wanted.

“But I’m afraid that in many other senses he (Mr Wishart) has fallen for some very selective briefing.

“The EU did not offer a deal that would have worked for musicians.

“It’s quite simple, the EU in fact made a very broad offer which would not have been compatible with the Government’s manifesto commitment to take back control of our borders.”

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Runrig (PA)

Runrig (PA)

Runrig (PA)

She added: “Let’s focus on the future, if the EU is willing to consider the UK’s very sensible proposals then the door is open… I am very happy to walk through it. I will be the first one through that door.”

Ms Dinenage said the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will speak to the Treasury about support for the industry.

Responding to Labour MP Mary Kelly Foy (City of Durham), Ms Dinenage said: “As ever, we want to make sure that our music industry is supported.

“We supported them with the cultural recovery fund and Arts Council England have a whole range of grants and financial support on offer.

“But in terms of this particular issue, we’ll be speaking to colleagues in the Treasury to see whether any support can be put forward at a future fiscal event.”

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The Beatles pictured as they arrive back in London after going on tour (PA)

The Beatles pictured as they arrive back in London after going on tour (PA)

The Beatles pictured as they arrive back in London after going on tour (PA)

Ms Dinenage said a 90-day visa-free travel period for musicians was not offered by the EU.

Labour former minister Ben Bradshaw said: “The minister and Conservative MPs keep claiming that they made this fantastic offer but we can’t test that can we, because they haven’t published it?

“The EU has, it is there in black and white – and on page 171 of the draft agreement from March last year allowing 90-day visa-free touring by British musicians and other cultural activities.

“So will the minister now publish the Government’s proposal so we can see where the truth lies?”

Ms Dinenage replied: “Well I’d have to correct (Mr Bradshaw) because the document doesn’t say 90-days visa-free touring by UK musicians, it is a lot more opaque than that which is why couldn’t simply sign up to that because it would not have delivered what we needed for our musicians and just flew in the face of what the British public voted for in the case of controlling our borders.

“But, as I’ve already said, I’ll speak to colleagues across BEIS and the Home Office to see what more we can publish on the details of the negotiations.”

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