Elton John is one of the musicians criticizing the British government’s Brexit deal.-AFP

More than 100 leading musicians yesterday criticized the government’s Brexit deal with the European Union writing in an open letter that performers had been “shamefully failed”. Leading musical lights including Elton John, The Who’s Roger Daltry and classical conductor Simon Rattle wrote in The Times newspaper that the government’s failure to secure visa-free travel for musicians would “tip many performers over the edge”.

Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, Ed Sheeran, Oasis’s Liam Gallagher and Queen’s Brian May also signed the letter, which spoke of a “gaping hole where the promised free movement for musicians should be”. They outlined how red tape around touring and additional work permits for British performances in Europe will make “many tours unviable, especially for young emerging musicians who are already struggling to keep their heads above water owing to the Covid ban on live music”.

Musicians and others in creative industries have railed against new travel rules with the European Union after Britain definitively left the 27-member bloc at the end of the Brexit transition period in December 2020. A petition calling for a visa-free travel and cultural work permit with the EU has so far attracted more than 263,000 signatures online. The government in London has blamed Brussels saying the EU had not offered 90-day visa-free travel for musicians.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has denied opposing free movement of musicians saying “ambitious proposals” for mobility had been offered. On Tuesday, Culture minister Caroline Dinenage said “the door is open” if Brussels was willing to “consider the UK’s very sensible proposals” on visa arrangements for musicians. However, she explained that the deal offered by the EU “would not have been compatible with the government’s manifesto commitment to take back control of our borders”. The 100 musicians said the government needed to “do what it said it would do” and negotiate a reciprocal deal for paperwork-free travel.

Britain-one of the countries worst affected by the global health crisis, with over 90,000 deaths-has seen its £5.8-billion ($7.9-billion, 6.4-billion-euro) music industry hit hard by the pandemic. British music festival organizers say the virus has devastated the sector and warned the annual summer events could disappear without more government support and an indication of when music venues can reopen. – AFP