(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport if he will make a statement on visa arrangements for UK musicians in the EU.
This Government recognise the importance of the UK’s world-leading cultural and creative industries. We recently demonstrated that commitment by providing an unprecedented £1.57 billion package of support to help them through the covid-19 pandemic. It is therefore entirely consistent that, during the negotiations with the EU, we pushed for ambitious arrangements allowing performers and artists to work across Europe.
Our proposals, which were informed by our extensive consultation and engagement with the UK’s cultural and creative industries, would have allowed UK musicians and other cultural touring professionals to travel and perform in the UK and the EU more easily, without the need for work permits. Regrettably, those mutually beneficial proposals were rejected by the EU. As a result, UK cultural professionals seeking to tour in the EU will be required to check domestic immigration and visitor rules for each member state in which they intend to tour. Although some member states allow touring without a permit, others will require a pre-approved visa and/or a work permit.
It is absolutely vital that we now support our touring sectors to understand the new rules associated with working and travelling in the EU. We are delivering an extensive programme of engagement with the sector to help them understand any new requirements. That includes working with Arts Council England and various other sector bodies, to help distil and clarify the new rules.
As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has already made very clear, we will also look at whether we can work with our partners in EU member states to find ways to make life easier for those working in the creative industries in our respective countries. In the meantime, we will continue close dialogue with the creative and cultural sectors, to understand the ongoing impacts and ensure that that they have the right support at the right time to continue to thrive.
That is an immensely disappointing response from the Minister. Touring Europe means everything to our artists and musicians: 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 is left of the fee for a post-gig beer; the dream of coming back on a lavish tour bus, staying at five-star hotels—gone, all gone. Musicians and artists are mere collateral in this Government’s obsession with ending freedom of movement.
Does the Minister acknowledge that visas and carnets will render such tours beyond the financial reach of future generations of new musicians? Does she appreciate that is not just our new musicians but the whole creative sector that will have increased costs and red tape? What will she say to the crews, the technicians, the set designers, the transport? We were promised by her predecessor that arrangements would not change. What has happened to that commitment? The EU said it was prepared to offer a 90-day deal. Why was that turned down? The Government said they were holding out for a better deal, but we have ended up with nothing. How could that happen? Given that the Minister’s approach is totally contradicted by the EU, will she provide complete transparency in all these negotiations?
Our constituents really care about this; 263,000 have now signed the petition organised by our artists, calling for this to get sorted. We do not want any more of the EU-blaming—we have had quite enough of that in the past few years; we just want the Government to fix this. The Secretary of State has said that the door is still open, so will she walk through and fix it out? Will she restart talks with the EU immediately, to get our artists the arrangements that they need? Will she let the music tour freely once again?
The hon. Gentleman is right to point out that this is incredibly disappointing news for the music sector—it is not the deal that we wanted; but I am afraid that in many other senses he has fallen for some very selective briefing. The EU did not offer a deal that would have worked for musicians. It is quite simple. The EU made a very broad offer, which would not have been compatible with the Government’s manifesto commitment to take back control of our borders. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the British people, the British public, voted for that at successive elections.
To the extent that the EU proposals might have covered music, they would not have worked for touring artists at all. The EU proposals covered ad hoc performances. They would not have covered support staff or technicians at all—which, as the hon. Gentleman will remember from his touring days, are essential. I would love him to explain to me how tours will happen without support staff or technicians, because although I am not a music professional, I cannot see how that could be the case.
The UK’s proposals were based on what those in the music industry said they wanted. We spoke to them long and hard about that. I am fascinated to think that the hon. Gentleman knows better than bodies like the Musicians’ Union. We fought very hard— [Interruption.] We fought very hard for what it wanted, but the EU would not play ball.
Let us focus on the future. If the EU is willing to consider the UK’s very sensible proposals, the door is open, and yes, I am very happy to walk through it. I will be the first to walk through that door. A mutually beneficial deal is not what the SNP Members want, though, is it? They voted for a no-deal Brexit, so under their plans, that would have been even harder. As those in the music industry have said, what they need now is clarity, not recriminations; and that is what the British Government are working to provide.
This issue is not just about musicians being able to travel and perform with ease. They also need somewhere to strut their stuff. Will the Minister commit to an overarching strategy to get live music thriving again, involving a restart of urgent negotiations for a pan-EU musicians visa, bearing in mind previous EU intransigence and by listening to the music industry? Will the Government also commit to backing covid insurance for our festivals and live music sector to allow them to plan for the summer and beyond?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and there is quite a lot we can do. The sector needs clarity and certainty, and because the situation with every member state is different, that will be tricky to provide. We therefore need to make it as simple, easy and clear as we can for them to tour and go about their business, and that is what we are setting about to do.
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point about insurance, which we understand is a barrier to many live music events taking place later in the year. We are in discussions with our colleagues in the Treasury about that at the moment.
I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. As we have heard, the Government still blame the EU, so, to get this issue straight, will the Minister make clear what exactly the EU proposed, when it was proposed and whether the UK offer was more than the standard visa policy?
The Minister said that the EU offer was a broad offer not consistent with taking back control of our borders. Will she go further and explain specifically when that was turned down? Finally, so that we can all be clear, will she place in the Library of the House of Commons all correspondence between the UK and the EU and all correspondence between UK Government Departments on this issue?
What matters is what happens now. A third of the creative industry is self-employed, and the situation is a massive kick in the teeth for a group of workers who are already having the worst year in living memory. What representations has the UK made to resolve the situation? What meetings are scheduled? Will the UK still rely on mode 4 exemptions, even though doing so is without precedent? Does the Minister agree that the resolution to the situation requires a supplementary agreement?
The Minister must go further and spell out exactly what the proposal is from the UK to resolve the situation. When musicians and creative people tour, they do not just power up an economy that is massively important to us; they represent us all on the global stage, so we must get this resolved now.
I am happy to talk the hon. Lady through the situation. The EU tabled texts regarding short-stay visa-free travel during the negotiations, and embedded in the proposal was a declaration that would have covered a very small number of paid activities. With regard to artists, it covered ad hoc performances. Of course, the declaration was non-binding and did not address things such as technical or support staff. Crucially, it did not cover work permits, which EU member states can put in place unilaterally. Furthermore, the proposals would have enshrined permanent visa-free short stays for all current and future EU citizens in the agreement, and that is not compatible with our manifesto commitment to take back control of our borders.
Our proposals were based on the views of the music industry and would have been mutually beneficial across the EU and the UK. They would have allowed musicians and support staff to travel and perform in the UK and the EU more easily without needing work permits. The EU did not propose and would not accept a tailored deal for musicians, artists and their support staff to tour across the EU and the UK.
As I have said, the UK’s door remains open should the EU change its mind. We recognise that the outcome means that some additional requirements will need to be met for the sector, and we are working with the sector as fast as we can to put in place the support and information that it needs. Labour Members voted for this deal in the knowledge of what it involved, including the end of free movement. What they are asking us to go back and renegotiate now is exactly what we negotiated at that time. They cannot have it both ways; they need consistency. What the sector needs more than anything at the moment is certainty, and that is what we are working to provide.
The international success of UK musicians has, for decades, been not just a big economic benefit for the country but a hugely successful way of promoting our culture around the world, so it seems extraordinary that any British Government would turn down a deal that allowed our musicians to tour if that deal was practical. Can the Minister assure me that that is not what happened? What is she doing to resume negotiations, so that we can get a realistic deal, which is essential for the future of our music industry?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right; the Government recognise the vital importance of the UK’s thriving cultural and creative industries. That is why we pushed for ambitious arrangements for performers and artists to be able to work right across Europe after the end of freedom of movement. The EU did not accept our proposals, so now we need to ensure that we are working to facilitate those arrangements as best we can. That means giving musicians and others access to information and guidance about the criteria for each EU member state and then working with those individual member states to ensure that the process is as seamless, fast, effective and simple as it can be.
Covid has been gruelling for the industry. The last thing it needs is the new Brexit visa barriers that we now know the UK Government—not the EU, but the UK Government—insisted upon. There is no money to be made from streaming. Artists make their income by touring. New barriers, visas and endless red tape mean that EU performers will not come to our festivals and our performers will face prohibitive new costs. It is wantonly cruel.
The Minister mentioned the Musicians’ Union, so let me quote its head. He said:
“the government fails to understand the issues facing touring musicians”.
He is an expert, and I know that the UK Government do not like experts, but this is more Brexit zealotry causing misery. Will the Secretary of State listen, intervene and publish that correspondence, as my hon. Friend Pete Wishart requested? Put it in the Library—let us read it.
There is a close historical relationship between the UK and the EU. That must endure, and it will endure. Artists and musicians from the EU are welcome. They are encouraged to visit and perform in the UK and vice versa, and the Government will do everything they can to make that as seamless as possible.
I thank my hon. Friend for the work she is doing to support the arts and culture sector through the pandemic. Can she confirm how many music venues and other music organisations have benefited from the Government’s £1.57 billion culture recovery fund?
I thank my hon. Friend for the work that she does to champion the cultural institutions across her constituency. She is a great voice for the people of North Dorset—sorry, I mean North Devon, but I am sure she is very nice about the people of North Dorset as well. The £1.57 billion culture recovery fund—of which we have already delivered more than £1 billion in support to various arts, heritage and performance organisations—has, to date, made 680 awards to music totalling more than £111 million.
I did ask the Prime Minister about this last week, and he promised a meeting with me and the Conservative Chair of the Select Committee, and I was told I would hear from No. 10. I do not know if the Minister can shed any light on that.
I do want the Minister to realise that a lot of touring musicians are not there with a lot of tech support; they are actually individuals who are starting out or perhaps established but not with that level of support. In effect, this represents the research and development of an important industry, but they may just be travelling with a single instrument on a plane with some fans in Europe. I think the most important thing the Minister could do today—others have asked this—is to publish in full the details of the discussions between the EU and the UK on this, so that we can all see what the ambitious proposals were and why she finds them so objectionable.
I know the hon. Gentleman is a great champion for the music industry, and not a bad musical performer himself. He is absolutely right, and we do understand that, for those starting at the music industry, the ability to tour is vital to their career and their future prosperity. That is why the EU proposals—they did not support touring activity; they just supported ad hoc artist activity—would not have done it for so many of them, which is why we pushed for something so much better. We are very disappointed that the EU did not it see our way, but we will try to do everything we can to support them. I will speak to my colleagues in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Home Office about publishing the information he has requested.
As the Minister will be aware, South West Hertfordshire is home to many successful and established musicians. Can my hon. Friend confirm that the UK’s proposals in the negotiations were based on the views of the UK music industry and would have allowed musicians to travel and perform in the UK and Europe more easily, without the need for work permits?
Yes, my hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise this. As I have said already, we worked very collaboratively with a whole range of stakeholders, including UK Music and the Musicians’ Union, to put forward proposals that were really based on the views of the musicians and the music industry about what they needed. It would have been mutually beneficial to the UK and the EU, and it would have allowed musicians—and, crucially, their support staff or their technicians—to travel and perform more easily, without the need for work permits.
I must be honest and say that I do welcome the fact that the door is still “open” to UK performers performing permit-free in the EU. Surely the danger is that concert promoters in the EU will simply take the easy option and go for a Dane or for a German performer, rather than the sheer hassle of British performers. There are also problems with the movement of musical instruments, which we know about. I have written to the DCMS just now, asking if we could please have a meeting between Ministers, me and musicians who are knowledgeable about this issue. At the end of the day, we have to try to sort it out, so I would be extremely grateful if the Minister agreed to such a meeting.
Absolutely. I am very happy to meet anybody on this, because it is really important that we continue regular engagement with the sector. We need to make sure that we have a very deep understanding of its needs and its questions in the light of these changes, which we know will pose a number of queries. Most recently, we held an EU exit explainer seminar with over 200 sector representative bodies in attendance, and the Secretary of State has a roundtable on Wednesday—tomorrow—with representatives from across the cultural and creative industries. We will keep doing those sorts of sessions all the time that people need and require them.
My hon. Friend is a great champion for her local area and will be taking the concerns of her constituents incredibly seriously, as indeed do we. We understand that we need to work with all the music sector trade bodies to make sure that we give people access to the information they need as to the situations in all the individual nation states; they are all different, which is one of the most confusing things about this. We also need to make sure that we work with those individual nations as closely as we can, to ensure that any barriers that are in place are made as simple and easy to navigate as possible.
In Putney, creative artists and support staff have already been damaged by the uncertainty around Brexit, on top of the covid effects that mean they are not able to tour. This failure of negotiations on a creative industry 90-day visa is letting down industry and the arts. Is the Minister really just going to sit back with her door open, or will she re-enter negotiations and be prepared for some give and take with individual countries to get that tailored deal that the creative industries really need?
I do not know what I have said during the course of today that could ever give the hon. Lady the viewpoint that I am just prepared to sit back and do nothing about this, or that I am happy with the way things have panned out; I voted for the trade agreement, but I presume so did she. We are not sitting there doing nothing. We are talking and will continue to talk to EU member states. They could of course unilaterally make things easier for travelling artists and musicians, but any changes they make would be likely to cover all visitors, not just those from the UK. The key thing we can do is to continue to talk to the sector and make sure that we put in place any support, information and guidance that it needs.
I have been contacted by a number of constituents on this issue, notably the Furness Tradition group. Could my hon. Friend confirm that, despite some of the reporting in recent days, touring in the EU is still possible for UK artists and musicians, and that the Government are working towards a more formal arrangement with the EU?
Quite simply, of course touring is still encouraged. Artists and musicians from the EU are very welcome and encouraged to visit and perform in the UK, and absolutely vice versa. I am sure that individual member states have different restrictions when it comes to visas and work permits; some are very limited, some are a little bit more complicated. This is very much a quid pro quo—it works for the EU as much as it does for our musicians here in the UK—and I am sure that many countries want to come to an arrangement that will allow their musicians to move, travel, work and tour and to take their beautiful music around Europe.
I am sure the Minister will agree that this is a double whammy for anyone who cares about levelling up and the creative industries in West Yorkshire and beyond. Recent figures show that the creative industries in West Yorkshire and the Humber have grown by 10.9%. It is really important for jobs and opportunities that we keep this industry flourishing, so will the Minister tell us what the Government have put in place to compensate for the inevitable loss of these opportunities, and will she make available what impact assessment has been done on the changes that this will make to the ability of businesses to continue to flourish after covid?
Of course we know that this has been such a horrible year, particularly for the sectors that I represent—the cultural and creative industries in west Yorkshire and around the whole UK. Covid has been a bitter blow. Of course we did not get the agreement with the EU that we wanted on touring musicians, but we want to do everything we can to support them, including providing clear, easy-to-access information and speaking to our colleagues in EU member states. We will also talk to our colleagues in the Treasury to see what financial support can be put in place at a future fiscal event.
The Edinburgh Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world. I hope the Minister will be aware that this event and others like it have a vital role to play in developing new work and providing a springboard for artists who then subsequently tour that work. Does she therefore not understand that by refusing to maintain a visa exemption for artists, she is fatally undermining festivals in Scotland and the United Kingdom?
I am a massive fan of the Edinburgh Fringe and, in fact, of all the Edinburgh festivals. Last summer was the first in any since I can remember that I was not able to go to Edinburgh to see them at first hand and it was something that I missed greatly. Very recently, just before Christmas, I met representatives from across the Edinburgh festivals to talk about all the issues that they are facing, particularly with regard to coronavirus, but others as well. I should correct the hon. Gentleman. It was not for want of trying that we do not have this free movement of our musicians to be able to perform and to tour across the EU or, indeed, vice versa. We fought very hard for it. Our own arrangements with regard to visas and work permits mean that musicians and performers from outside the UK are very welcome to our shores.
British bands and professional musicians represent a hugely successful cultural export for the UK. I know that the Minister recognises that and I know that she understands the importance of international touring in that success, but may I ask her what more she can do on a bilateral basis with her counterparts in EU member states to find specific solutions to the problems that we are discussing today and ensure that touring remains as easy as possible for our world-leading musicians?
I thank my right hon. Friend for that question. Of course, as I have said, the door is open and I would love to be able to change this across the board straight away, but that will not be possible in the immediate or foreseeable future. It is all about having those bilateral conversations with colleagues in EU member states. At this stage, it would not be about a waiver but about facilitation and what we can do to make the situation as easy and as straightforward as possible and, of course, those are the conversations that we will be having.
Van Morrison penned the protest song “We Are Born to be Free”, but it appears that musicians like him and others are now completely caught up in a red tape trap and are not free at all. Can the Minister clarify the situation with regard to carnets for musicians and instruments travelling from GB to Northern Ireland and from Northern Ireland back to GB? Can she confirm that they are definitely not required within the UK? However, once a person gets to Northern Ireland, will they be required to travel south, or will the common arrangements that we have with the Republic of Ireland still be in place? Once south, can a person then onward travel without a carnet to the rest of Europe? Can we have clarity on those issues?
Van Morrison also penned “Brown Eyed Girl”, which is my own personal anthem. I thank the hon. Gentleman for that question. Artists and organisations based in Northern Ireland will not be required to obtain ATA carnets or musical instrument certificates when touring in the EU because the Northern Ireland protocol means that Northern Ireland is part of the same regulatory environment for goods as the European Union. Northern Ireland citizens who do not hold Irish citizenship as well will be subject to the same changes as other British citizens on mobility and business travel when going to EU member states, but, of course, not to the Republic of Ireland.
A number of my constituents in the entertainments, arts and creative industries have contacted me setting out the impacts that the new immigration restrictions will have on their livelihoods. It is clear that the UK Government strived to gain a mutually beneficial agreement with the EU. Will the Minister therefore set out what steps the Government are taking to continue to urge the EU to return to the negotiating table and reopen discussions to reach a more preferable agreement for all parties? May I take this opportunity on behalf of my constituents to ask the EU to reconsider its position?
I thank my hon. Friend for that question. The negotiating team did negotiate an opportunity to come back and review this in the years ahead, so the light at the end of the tunnel is not entirely switched off. But there is quite a lot we can do between European nation states to try to make things a lot easier and straightforward. She is right to highlight that this impacts EU artists as much as it does those from the UK. We want to make their lives as easy and as straightforward as possible.
As well as issues with visas or work permits, UK musicians working in EU countries risk being double-charged their social security contributions if they work in a country that has opted out of the social security co-ordination under the detached worker rules. Can the Minister set out what the Government are doing to avoid that and ensure that UK musicians do not face that financial penalty while they are working in the EU?
I am really pleased that the hon. Lady has given me the opportunity to answer that question. The protocol on social security co-ordination secured in the agreement ensures that UK nationals and EU citizens have a range of social security cover when working and living in the EU and the UK. It also supports business and trade by ensuring that cross-border workers and their employers are only liable to pay social security contributions in one state at a time. That is, obviously, very beneficial in particular to smaller cultural organisations that may not have the required cash flow to finance any duplicate payments. Member states have until
There is clearly no substitute for live music and during the covid pandemic opportunities have been severely depressed. In addition to having discussions on how we might ensure musicians can travel within the European Union and within the UK, can my hon. Friend update the House on what discussions she has had with TV companies to allow emerging musicians in particular the opportunity to have their music recorded and broadcast in parts of the European Union?
As ever, an ingenious question from my hon. Friend. I know that so many of our brilliant cultural organisations have worked really hard to improve their digital offer, particularly over the various lockdowns. Earlier in the year, I visited the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and saw the amazing work it is doing to bring its beautiful music to audiences around the world because of the investment it has made in that capacity. He has hit on a really strong concept. I will discuss it with my dear colleague, the Minister for Media and Data, my right hon. Friend Mr Whittingdale.
The Minister may not be aware of this, but the world-renowned Cory Band from Rhondda Cynon Taff are the current European brass band champions. To travel through Europe to defend their hard-fought-for title, and to visit the concerts and workshops, each member of the band will now require a visa and a work permit, despite them being an amateur organisation. This will undoubtedly add an additional financial and administrative burden that could be avoided. What discussions has the Minister had to ensure that brass bands from across the UK can continue to fly the flag for us in Europe without this bureaucracy?
I was not aware of the hon. Lady’s band and I wish them the very best of luck in their endeavours to defend their fantastic title. If the tour they are going on is not paid by the individual venues they are visiting, there may not be an issue here. The band would have to discuss that with individual member states to get clarity on that, but I am very happy to speak to her further about it.
It is clear that this issue gets to the core of our inextricable cultural links with our European partners. It is good to see the Minister stressing the urgency of securing bilateral agreements and ensuring that current arrangements are simplified for people. May I make a special request that she bears in mind individual musicians, many of whom carry multiple instruments, in her efforts to simplify the current arrangements?
As ever, my hon. Friend makes an excellent point. There are so many facets to this issue that we need to keep in mind as we move forward. That is certainly something that I am very happy to talk to him further about.
I have been contacted by a number of constituents—not just musicians, but actors, dancers, choreographers and puppeteers—about the Government’s failure to secure visa-free work permits for touring artists in the EU. This comes as a further hammer blow to their livelihoods, with the continued shutdown of live entertainment as well as the huge gaps in the Government’s support for many working in these industries. What assurances can the Minister give to my constituents, particularly students such as Fresca David, who is just starting out on her career, that they are not being treated as an afterthought by this Government?
My message to the hon. Lady’s constituent would be that the Government entirely recognise the vital importance of the UK’s thriving creative artists. We want to support them in every way we can. I am just so pleased that there was not a Liberal Democrat Government, who would have voted for no deal.
This is a really serious issue and Scottish musicians will undoubtedly be affected. Does my hon. Friend agree that, instead of simply masquerading as a serious party of Government, the Scottish National party should start acting like one, cease these politically charged, ill-informed, deliberately misleading games—an example of which we have seen today—that do nothing to help the situation, work with us and support us in attempting to find a mutually agreeable solution, support Scottish musicians who have been let down by the EU’s decision not to accept our compromise proposals, and work to get an agreement over visa arrangements?
My hon. Friend hits the nail on the head. What we need to do now is to move forward. We need to come forward with sensible proactive solutions for the UK music sector. The industry itself has said that what we need now is clarity, not recriminations. That is what we are working to provide and we very much appreciate support from across the House for us to do that.
My Belvidere constituent, Louise McLean, is just one of the many people connected to the music industry who can see that live performers are just the latest casualty in a Brexit that Scotland did not vote for. Last year, as Culture Minister, Nigel Adams, said:
“It is essential that free movement is protected for artists post 2020.”—[Official Report,
Vol. 670, c. 56WH.]
Does the hon. Lady agree with her ministerial colleague? Why was that view ignored in Government, if it is also the view of the music industry?
Yes, absolutely, I agree with the comments of my predecessor. That is why we put to the EU fantastic proposals, which were based on the views of the music industry, would have been mutually beneficial and allowed musicians and support staff to tour. We are very disappointed that the EU did not see it the same way.
I was pleased to hear my hon. Friend mention technicians—the sound and lighting engineers who make touring possible. When she is looking for a solution, which I know she is doing, will she also include companies such as Beat the Street in Romsey, which provides the tour buses that make it possible for artists to travel Europe? It will spell a death knell for the entire industry if they are not able to access the continent.
My right hon. Friend is such a great champion for businesses in her local area, particularly those that have been so badly affected, not just by covid, but by the very disappointing EU refusal to accept our very reasonable propositions. She will know that the sector has benefited from a range of different support measures over the last year that were put in place because of covid, but we do need to support it moving forward. The EU’s proposal would not have worked because it would not have supported the valuable support workers in my right hon. Friend’s constituency to do their work. Quite simply, without them, touring would not be possible.
The Minister and Conservative MPs keep claiming that they made this fantastic offer, but we cannot test that because they have not published it. The EU has. It is there in black and white on page 171 of the draft agreement from March last year, allowing 90-day visa-free touring by British musicians and other cultural activities. Will the Minister publish the Government’s proposal, so we can see where the truth lies?
I have to correct the right hon. Gentleman. The document does not say 90 days visa-free touring by UK musicians; it is a lot more opaque than that, which is why we could not simply sign up to it. It just would not have delivered what we needed for our musicians, and it flew in the face of what the British public voted for in the case of controlling our borders. As I have already said, I will speak to colleagues across BEIS and the Home Office to see what further details on the negotiations we can publish.
As you know, Mr Speaker, the north of England has helped to form and then exported some of the biggest musicians and bands across the world in recent decades. Touring is not a “nice to have”; it is an absolute financial necessity for musicians from both the UK and the EU. Can the Minister confirm that it was the UK Government who pushed for a more ambitious agreement with the EU on temporary movement of business travellers, and that it was the EU that unreasonably rejected this proposal?
I thank my hon. Friend for putting it so simply and succinctly; that is exactly what happened. The proposals that we put forward would have allowed musicians to travel and perform in the UK and the EU more easily, and they were rejected by the EU.
I have been listening to the Minister’s replies, and it is always somebody else’s fault with this Government, isn’t it? Our world-class events and production companies, such as Adlib in my constituency, tour the EU with UK and US-based musicians, but very few EU-based companies tour the UK. Does not the Minister realise that her giving up on agreeing comprehensive arrangements to enable this to continue could destroy a sector that has huge export success and destroy the jobs and livelihoods of the technicians, who are already struggling because of the pandemic restrictions to their trade?
Of course I recognise that this is not the solution that we would have wanted, and it is not the solution that we fought really hard for. I point out to the hon. Lady that the Labour party voted for this deal in the full knowledge of what it involved, including the end to freedom of movement.
From The Horns to the Colosseum to the Palace Theatre, music literally beats at the heart of my constituency of Watford. That means that we have many amazing musicians. They are asking me whether my hon. Friend can confirm that it was not the UK that ended these visas, and what measures are going forward to support this amazing sector?
My hon. Friend is such a vibrant champion, and not just for the music industry in his constituency; we have also spoken about the film industry. I expect him at any moment to be descending from the ceiling on a wire in the next “Mission Impossible” movie. He does it all with great panache, and that is exactly what we want to do. The cultural recovery fund has been about supporting music venues so that musicians can get back to doing what they love. Arts Council England is there to support them. We will look at every opportunity we have to put in place more of that vital encouragement and support.
Professor Paul Carr of the University of South Wales reports that in 2019 music tourism alone generated a spend of £124 million in Wales, supporting 1,754 jobs. The Government’s failure to secure visa-free travel is a huge blow, especially to young people at a tipping point in their creative careers. In particular, it will diminish the strong international quality of our national culture. What assessment has the Minister made of the long-term impact of this wholly avoidable mess, specifically on the cultural industry in Wales?
We know that there will be obstacles in the immediate period for those who want to travel and tour abroad, but I am sure that that will change once we enable people to access the information they need and they can see what the situation is with all the different member states, because they all vary wildly. In Wales in particular, musicians are dedicated, vibrant, resourceful and practical, and I know that they will overcome any bumps in the road to be able to do what they do so brilliantly and to continue to share it with our European neighbours.
I thank you, Mr Speaker, and Pete Wishart for providing the opportunity to help the Minister correct the misleading social media chatter among professional musicians and other performance artists, and from Opposition Members, about exactly where the responsibility lies for this situation. Will she confirm my impression that the European Union negotiators appear to have rather cynically used and abused the interests of its musicians and its music fans to undermine the United Kingdom Government’s commitment to its own citizens around regaining control of our borders? However ungrateful and ungracious the Musicians’ Union has been in regard to my hon. Friend’s efforts—
Order. I call the Minister, please. That was far too long a question.
My hon. Friend is right that we did fight very hard for this. We understand this not just for performers from the UK, but—he is absolutely right—for performers from the EU as well, because the UK music scene is, I would say, the best in the world, and putting any obstacles or tests in the way of EU performers coming here is a very difficult position for them as well. We are a lot more forthcoming: we do not put in place work permits, and we have a lot more sensitive approaches to visas for performers coming across from the EU. It would have been lovely for that to have been the situation right across all EU member states as well.
Similar to many families in my constituency, artists have been pointing out that many bands comprise a mixture of EU and UK nationals. Does the Minister not see the impossible situation that they will now face, with different members being faced with different levels of bureaucracy and red tape wherever they tour?
Absolutely; I understand the hon. Gentleman’s suggestion that this causes a problem for bands, in particular, or orchestras who have members from all different EU member states. The guidance is that we all have to seek instructions from each member state on how we proceed, but had the EU accepted our suggestions in the first place, we would not be in this position.
I am sure that my hon. Friend would agree that our world-leading artists and musicians are not just important to the UK economically, but vital to our country’s culture and soft power. The arts play an important role in my constituency, where we have the Leopallooza festival and the Rock Oyster festival, attracting hundreds of talented artists and performers. Given that, I was disappointed to hear of the EU’s rejection of the UK’s visa-free travel offer. Will she commit to doing what she can to secure access to EU countries for UK artists and musicians and keep negotiating to try to encourage the EU to show some flexibility, for the sake of my constituents?
Yes, of course, we will keep that negotiation open and try to make things as simple and as painless as possible. Our door remains open if the EU wants to come back and look at this again. Where visas apply, our agreement with the EU does contain measures that will help to ensure that processes are as prompt and smooth as possible, and we will work to exploit those as much as we can.
This morning, the UK music industry told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee that despite being 1% of the world’s population, the UK produces 10% of its music. This industry has been one of the fastest growing over the last 10 years. It employs 2 million people, with the potential to create 1 million jobs in the next 10 years, so I am incredulous that the Government have got us into this situation. Will the Minister say when she will start the negotiations on a supplementary agreement so that we can sort this mess out?
The hon. Gentleman is right to say how incredibly successful our music industry is around the world, and that is why we fought so hard to get much better arrangements in the agreement. What we need to do now is ensure that our sectors are prepared to face any challenges in the future, which is why we are continuing those dialogues with them to understand the ongoing impacts and challenges that may be faced. We need to ensure that they have the right support at the right time and do everything we can to work with other member states to ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible.
In addition to trying to improve visa-free travel for musicians, could my hon. Friend say whether the Government hope to progress on easing the movement of musical equipment from country to country within Europe, so that it is not treated like any other physical goods, and on easing the cabotage restrictions for festivals and bands? Finally, can she confirm whether EU-based music showcases fall under the short business trip exemption for conferences, trade fairs and exhibitions? These showcases are often so important in making the careers of developing talent.
With regard to the haulage—the cabotage—that has not been imposed just on us because we have left the EU. They are rules that apply to both UK and EU haulage firms. I want to speak more about this with colleagues in the Department for Transport and with European colleagues to see what more can be done to address it. It impacts not just us but companies that are moving musical equipment across Europe, no matter which European member state they come from. As for my hon. Friend’s other question, if performers are visiting in a business capacity, that is to negotiate a future tour, for any other scoping arrangements or for various other things, that would fall under the business visa waiver. It is always really important to check the individual rules of that EU nation—that member state—to ensure that they do not have anything that would need to be abided by.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I think we can all agree that no competent Government would accept such a significant loss of revenue for an already struggling sector without a plan B to mitigate the economic impact. Can the Minister tell me what plan is in place to make up for the financial shortfall for the creative industries resulting from the Government’s failure to negotiate visa exemptions with the European Union?
I just want to make sure that the hon. Lady is not labouring under any misapprehension that the EU made a bespoke offer on musicians that we turned down. That simply is not the case. We fought very hard to get a solution that would have worked to the benefit of our musicians and those from the EU. As ever, we want to ensure that our music industry is supported. We supported it with the cultural recovery fund, and Arts Council England has a range of grants and financial support on offer. On this particular issue, we will speak to colleagues in the Treasury to see whether any support can be put forward at a future fiscal event.
Surely the longer this situation persists the worse it gets for UK artists, and the longer their recovery from covid becomes. Right now, musicians, agents and those who book for them have way too much risk in fixing European gigs. It is no good Opposition Members who voted for no deal joining the debate now. We have the deal, but surely we need to return to it with the sensible UK proposal that was on the table, which presumably, as the Minister has said today, still stands.
My hon. Friend has just hit the nail on the head, and does so in a much more articulate way than I could. That is absolutely right: the deal is still on the table and our door is open for the EU to come back and take up that deal if it wants to. In the short term, we are speaking to member states bilaterally about the visa regime and whether there is any facilitation, as opposed to a waiver, that could be put in place. What the sector now needs is certainty and for us to be able to put in place the guidance and support for it to move forward.
The Minister acknowledged that this situation is deeply unsatisfactory, and so too have the many MPs who have signed my early-day motion highlighting this crisis for touring artists. Today she committed her Department to preparing the creative sector for this new regime. Can she assure the House that this will be better than the way that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs helped to prepare fishermen and farmers, which was to throw them off the bureaucratic cliff? Is she not worried that this wanton and wholly avoidable impediment to the fraternal sharing of arts and culture exposes a rather narrow and isolationist vision of the future by this UK Government?
The key is ensuring that we put in place the guidance and support that the sector needs to be able to deal with the new changes. We are talking collaboratively with the sector about that at the moment, and we will be putting in place opportunities for people to learn much more about how things stand and where they need to go to access advice and support. Those are the practical things that we can talk about right now to help our sector move forward and continue to be the vibrant ambassador for the UK and the hugely brilliant cultural sector that it has always been.
A single European tour may visit dozens of venues, employing hundreds of people skilled in everything from logistics to finance, lighting, pyrotechnics, costumes and more to make it a success. What reassurances can my hon. Friend give people like Aberconwy resident and experienced front-of-house engineer Berenice Hardman that practical arrangements such as visas, carnets and cabotage will be easier and simpler for them to deal with in the future?
The assurance I would give my hon. Friend’s constituent is that we will be having conversations with colleagues across all the nation states of the EU to see what measures we can put in place to facilitate the arrangements. Some of them have very straightforward arrangements right now—some of them do not impose extra work permits, and some are very flexible when it comes to their visas, and others less so. We need to speak to them to ensure that these arrangements can be as smooth, fast and easy to understand as possible, and that is the key to us being able to move forward.
There being almost nobody present in the Chamber, I am not going to suspend before we go on to the next item of business, so we will move straight to the ten-minute rule motion.