David Frost, the UK’s lead Brexit negotiator, has risked the ire of Elton John and the music industry in general when he appeared to take the singer’s lobbying on the controversial visa issue lightly.
The singer, he told MPs, had hits long before the UK was a member state of the European Union.
Lord Frost appeared before a select committee asked about the lack of agreements between the UK and the EU that would allow musicians and performers to work freely across Europe.
There has been a long blame game between the UK and the EU on the issue. As politicians have argued, desperate musicians have signaled that their livelihoods remain in jeopardy.
John has spoken out on the issue, calling the government “Philistines.” He told the Observer: “I am furious about what the government did when Brexit happened. They made no provision for the entertainment business, and not just for the musicians, actors and film directors, but for the teams, the dancers, the people who make a living by going to Europe.
“It’s a nightmare. For young people just starting a career, it’s crucifying.”
Frost has personally met with John to discuss the matter. “I had a good conversation with Elton John,” Lord Frost told the digital, cultural, media and sports committee on Tuesday.
“Obviously it was helpful to listen directly. I can’t help but note that their first successes were before the UK became a member of the European Union, so I think there is probably more at stake here than straightforward rules within the then European Community.
“Talent is important and that is why we support our talented creative industries.”
SNP culture spokesman John Nicolson accused Frost of giving John a “totally free” hit. He said the EU had entered into a series of visa waiver agreements with governments that meant that “a musician from Tonga has greater access to work in Europe than musicians from the UK.”
“The reality is that you sacrificed a £ 6bn industry and its workers for Brexit … the fanaticism of the anti-free trade movement.”
Frost argued that musicians could work without a visa, albeit with time limits, in 17 EU countries and his colleagues from the Department of Culture, Media, Digital Media and Sport were working to relax visa requirements for another seven countries.
He called on musicians and their representative bodies to support the government in persuading individual countries to ease visa requirements.
High-level EU sources said the UK had taken a “zero” approach to Brussels on removing the work visa and other barriers for musicians, actors and other creatives after Brexit.
Part of the solution could be pan-European, but bilateral agreements between individual countries may also be necessary.
Over 1000 artists endorse a music industry campaign, #LetTheMusicMove, pushing for a reduction in costs and touring bureaucracy.
Reacting to Frost’s appearance before MPs, the campaign said the session would do little to allay mounting concerns.
“While we continue to suffer the catastrophic impacts of Covid, many are now in open despair over the government’s disturbing lack of urgency to address a range of Brexit-related bureaucracy and costs that will make EU tours almost prohibitively expensive and onerous “.
He said the £ 1bn fishing industry had been given £ 23m to adapt to the new bureaucracy. “As it stands, our £ 6 billion music industry is about to dry up. It feels like a complete abdication of responsibility. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism