MUSICIANS have hit out at the UK Government over “devastating” post-Brexit red tape for the live music industry.

New UK travel rules came into force at the beginning of the year and do not guarantee visa-free travel for musicians in the EU.

Almost 300,000 people, including Sir Elton John, have signed a petition calling for a Europe-wide visa work permit for touring musicians and artists which MPs will debate this afternoon. The letter said performers have been “shamefully failed” by the visa rules.

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Scottish trad singer, Iona Fyfe, told BBC Radio Scotland: "The petition is to put pressure on the Government to do a U-turn and effectively get a deal for musicians. I think that when the Brexit deal came out musicians and sportsmen were just not catered for at all.

"There has been a bit of back and forth in who is to blame for this breakdown in communication with Michael Barnier saying that the British Government had rejected a clear offer from Brussells to carve out a deal for performers and then the UK Government saying it was Brusells making it difficult to come to an agreement. Meanwhile, there's a surge of musicians in the UK thinking about leaving the industry which contributes 5.8 billion to the economy. It just seems like the UK have missed the point on this. 

She went on: "It's the sharing of tradition and culture. Being able to tour abroad really helped me cut my teeth as a folk musician. Going to other countries and being able to learn from other traditions and sing with other people and have an understanding of people's different heritages. That's really important."

Fyfe described Brexit customs issues as "a nightmare", adding: "It's going to make it financially unfeasable for grassroots musicians as well as your big acts to tour."

Boyzone star Ronan Keating said the current situation is “ridiculous”.

He told BBC Breakfast: “We’re talking about grassroots, upcoming artists… “It’s not so much about larger artists who already have back catalogues and careers.

“There’s no money in record sales, the way that they (bands) make money is actually touring.

“So, to slap this on them, it’s just going to be devastating for the live industry… We won’t be able to go touring.”

He added: “The arts have been hit suddenly, massively over the last 12 months… “My band, my crew, they haven’t had any support whatsoever, so they’ve been really struggling.

“So, to get back to work and the live performances are incredibly important.”

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Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood told Sky News: “For bands like us, we’re fortunate, we have accounting, legal services to cover the new red tape…

“But what about bands that are coming up, to be future Radioheads… over the next decade? That’s the big worry.”

He added: “We’ve got an opportunity right now (while the pandemic has stopped touring) to put things in place to help artists.”

The touring economy is a “powerful patriotic force for good, and also a massive source of taxable revenue for a lot of hospitals in the UK”, he said.

Last month, the SNP said the UK Government had treated performers “like pawns on a chessboard” during Brexit negotiations.

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SNP MP and former musician Pete Wishart said:“We now know that, despite the EU side offering, the UK Government rejected proposals that would have allowed musicians and performers to travel across the EU without visas.

“I’m calling on Oliver Dowden to work with his colleagues in the UK Government and U-turn on this ludicrous decision – one which will not only leave creatives in the UK drowning in red tape, but will also shut the door on those European creatives who enrich the cultural tapestry of these islands.

“Scotland did not vote for this isolationist approach to policy-making. While the Tories at Westminster treat our creative sector like pawns on a chessboard, Scotland wants to open its arms and welcome our European friends and neighbours.

“The UK Government has had time to reconsider this decision; to help performers and musicians, but they have done nothing of the sort. It’s time for an urgent rethink before these opportunities are lost.”

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden defended the UK Government’s approach, saying: “We sought a mutually beneficial agreement that would have allowed performers to continue working and perform across the continent without the need for work permits.

"Musicians, artists, entertainers and support staff would have been captured through the list of permitted activities for short-term business visitors. This was a straightforward solution for our creative industries which would have benefited all sides.

“But the EU turned it down, repeatedly. It did not propose and wouldn’t accept a tailored deal for musicians and artists. I’m afraid it was the EU letting down music on both sides of the Channel – not us.”