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Brexit: Movement of People in the Cultural Sector (European Union Committee Report) - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:24 pm on 15th May 2019.

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Photo of Lord Wigley Lord Wigley Plaid Cymru 5:24 pm, 15th May 2019

My Lords, I will speak briefly in the gap. It is a delight to follow the noble Duke, the Duke of Somerset. I endorse his comments, particularly on the premature red lines, which many of us feel very strongly about. I again declare my interests: my close family are all employed in the cultural sector. My wife, Elinor Bennett, organises an international harp festival.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Jay, and his committee for their excellent report. I apologise for raising prematurely at Question Time the issue of securing agreement on touring visas for those employed in the cultural sector. It was remiss of me to do so ahead of the debate and it put the Minister into a rather invidious position. I am sorry that I did that.

I draw the House’s attention to an example of the negative impact of artificial barriers on performing artists. NoFit State—that is its name, not a description—is Wales’s flagship contemporary circus company of performing artists. The revenues from international touring accounted for 40% of its turnover in 2016. Its recent experience of touring America highlights the additional costs when there is no barrier-free right to travel and perform. Its costs over and above travel costs for a few weeks in the United States were £46,000 higher than the equivalent costs of a similar tour in the European Union, on the same scale and of the same cultural nature. Major costs included visas for £13,000, carnets for £9,000, and medical and equipment insurance, as well as other significant costs such as certification.

If costs such as these were to arise relating to working in the EU, it would be totally prohibitive to companies and individuals. They need to know now what the circumstances will be so that they can plan ahead. I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, who mentioned an urgent need for the provision of practical information with regard, for example, to visas, permits and carnets for those in the UK cultural sector when they hope to work in the European Union—and indeed for EU performers wishing to come to tour in the UK and the agents organising such visits and activities. A service providing information and assistance of this sort is desperately needed. I hope the Government will be able to say something about that.

Incidentally, we have seen the difficulties faced by non-EU performers coming to the Llangollen International Eisteddfod, many of whom have faced bureaucratic hurdles. Heaven help us if similar and unnecessary barriers are placed between the European Union and the United Kingdom.