The row over visa-free travel for musicians between Brussels and Westminster escalated recently as UK Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, unleashed a furious attack on the EU. Dowden accused Brussels of being ‘absurd and self-defeating’ over the issue and pledged to support the UK music industry.
British music industry representatives have urged the government to take ‘urgent action’ over the issue, amid fears that red tape under the current Brexit deal could have adverse implications on the sector.
In a furious outburst aimed at the EU, Dowden said that the problems are ‘the fault of Brussels.’ During a Commons meeting, he said: “It’s absurd and self-defeating. It could have been solved and it can still be solved today by the EU matching the offer that we have unilaterally made to EU nationals.”
Working with the music industry
Mr Dowden explained that he is currently working with leading music industry figures, including legend Sir Elton John, to find a longer-term solution for artists.
He told MPs: “I would like to reassure touring musicians and all of those in the creative industries. I know how important an opportunity to tour is for them and it’s something I discussed just yesterday with Sir Elton John and I’ve discussed it with many others.”
“It is a vital part of them building their careers. That is why we have set up this working group with musicians so we can find ways of supporting them so they can continue to tour, not just in Europe but across the world. I think there are huge opportunities for the industry.” Mr Dowden said.
However, according to a report published by NME, Elton John said that visa-free touring is ‘not on the cards’.
EU blames Britain
While Britain has pointed the finger at Brussels for the ongoing spat, the EU insists that it’s the fault of the UK government. A spokesperson for the European Commission said: “The UK has chosen to no longer allow the free movement of EU citizens to the UK. It also refused to include a chapter on mobility in the agreement.”
“These choices inevitably mean that travel between the EU and the UK - including for business purposes - will no longer be as easy as it was while the UK was a member state,” the spokesperson added.
The EU accused Britain of refusing to commit to visa-free short stays. “The spokesperson said: As a result, it is now up to each member state to determine if a visa is required for short-stay visits for the purpose of carrying out a paid activity. This is fully in line with EU law.”
However, the UK government as refused to take the blame, saying that it made a ‘generous’ offer that was rejected by Brussels.
Mr Dowden explained the decision not to accept the EU’s counter-offer by saying: “The reason why we rejected the offer from the European Union was that it wasn’t binding, it didn't cover touring, it didn't cover technical support staff, and crucially, it didn't cover work permits.”
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