Pop stars slam UK govt over failure to secure visa-free EU travel

Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke

The British government on Monday blamed the EU for a failure to reach agreement on visa free-travel for musicians post-Brexit, after coming under fire from performers including Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke. The singer called Boris Johnson’s government “spineless” while Tim Burgess, frontman with indie band The Charlatans, accused leaders of “treating artists with… contempt”.

But a government spokesman on Monday insisted the European Union was culpable. Britain had tried to secure visa-free travel for touring musicians as part of an “ambitious agreement on temporary movement of business travellers”, but Brussels rejected it, he added.

London dismissed the EU’s counter-offer of a visa exemption for performers visiting any of its 27 countries for less than 90 days, according to the Independent newspaper, citing Brussels sources. Stars including One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson and former Boyzone member Ronan Keating urged fans to support a campaign calling for a “free cultural work permit”, with an online petition collecting almost 250,000 signatures. The visa would give free travel throughout the EU for music-touring professionals, bands, musicians, artists, TV and sports celebrities.

Horace Trubridge, general secretary of the Musicians’ Union (MU), said Britain’s rejection of the EU’s offer was “nigh-on unbelievable”. “With the British music business having been devastated by Covid-19 and with no end in sight to the black hole of cancelled concerts, tours, festivals and regular gigs…, the news, if true…is nigh-on unbelievable,” he added.

Last week, organizers of British music festivals said the pandemic had devastated the industry and warned events could disappear for good without more government support. Cabinet Office minister Nicholas True has said talks with Brussels over visa-free travel for artists were “unlikely” to resume in the near future. – AFP