THE refusal to award visas to a dozen authors planning to attend this year’s Edinburgh Book Festival is an indication of how the Home Office will handle such applications post-Brexit as the UK ends the “free movement of people”.

The National told 10 days ago how European correspondent, Udo Seiwert-Fauti, urged Edinburgh’s festivals to prepare a “Plan B” in the event of a hard Brexit, as the “permit-free” status of events like the Fringe, would end.

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Edinburgh Book Festival director Nick Barley said yesterday that the 12 authors facing “visa challenges” were now able to attend the event, but warned it was “an issue which is becoming more prevalent each year”.

Seiwert-Fauti, a German national who writes on Brexit, Europe and Scottish affairs from the EU, told The National yesterday: “I am convinced the management of visas for this high-ranking festival could be a hint at how the Home Office will influence and affect the future of visa handling.

“Imagine, I as a journalist criticising the UK … they would be able to send me home again at the border. Even singing Flower of Scotland would be of no help.

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“If you (UK) have left the EU, nobody can hinder that, can stop London doing so. It’s up to London government how they handle any visa application.

“It is the end of the free movement of people – the UK wants it. I would not be surprised to experience that soon after March 2019.”

The book festival starts on Saturday and includes appearances from more than 900 authors and illustrators from 55 countries.

Barley warned the “humiliating” application process – which involved submitting three years’ of bank statements and submitting to biometric testing – would deter artists from visiting the UK.

He said: “For us it is still a relatively small number of authors… however it is an issue which is becoming more prevalent each year.

“We are obviously concerned that the challenges of obtaining a UK visa will have a knock-on effect on the international reputation of not only Edinburgh’s festivals but arts and cultural organisations across the UK.

“We are an international festival, and our remit is not only to put Scottish authors on an international stage, but also international authors on a Scottish stage.

“It is hugely important that we are able to continue to welcome authors from around the world to Edinburgh each August.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted about the issue, saying: “It is really not acceptable that one of the world’s most renowned and respected book festivals @edbookfest is being undermined in this way. The UK Government needs to get it sorted.”

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society said it was proud of its “permit-free” status. A spokesperson said: “We want to work with arts organisations across the UK, and the UK Government, to ensure that international artists, performers, musicians and authors who are invited to visit the UK by a known arts organisation are able to come to perform and talk about their work without the humiliation of having to provide the level of personal and financial detail currently required.”

The Edinburgh International Festival added: ‘While we haven’t experienced issues with artist visas this year, by definition, the International Festival relies on the ability to welcome artists from all over the world. We will continue to support all efforts to ensure that Edinburgh remains a world-leading festival centre and a place of inspiration for people of all cultures to meet and exchange ideas.”