UK govt 'made false claims' about visa-free post-Brexit touring

Lawyers working on behalf of the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) have identified five false claims made by government ministers in regards to promises of continuing visa-free touring of the EU post-Brexit for the music and entertainment industry.

In a statement released by the ISM it said; "Since the Brexit Deal (or Trade and Cooperation Agreement) came into force in January 2021, a mountain of costly red tape has prevented musicians from planning tours in Europe as performances return after coronavirus. In response, organisations across the creative industries have called on the Government to negotiate a bespoke Visa Waiver Agreement (WVA) with the EU to remove a significant part of this barrier.

"For months, the Government has repeatedly told Parliament and the creative sector that a VWA would not be suitable because it would require the TCA to be renegotiated as well as other reasons. However, today the ISM has published a detailed rebuttal briefing, based on legal advice from a leading QC, that directly contradicts their objections.

"Ministers have claimed that a VWA would... require the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) to be renegotiated” (25 March 2021).  Actually, creating a VWA could... be easily encompassed in a short supplementing agreement or a Joint Declaration (JD) added to the TCA. The possibility of other agreements between the UK and EU is clearly outlined in the TCA.

"Ministers have claimed that a VWA would... not have been compatible with the Government’s manifesto commitment to take back control of our borders” (19 January 2021). Actually, creating a VWA could... provide an exemption only for limited number of professions and the legal text can be restricted further, for example exclusively for the creative industry, based on what is negotiated.

"Ministers have claimed that a VWA would... not bind Member States” (19 March 2021). Actually, creating a VWA could... be legally binding once ratified, not least because it would have to be approved by the EU Council.

"Ministers have claimed that a VWA would... only cover “a very small number of paid activities” and “ad hoc performances” (19 January 2021). Actually, creating a VWA could... use the legal term “ad hoc basis” to cover artists carrying out specific engagements such as a tour. But even so, guidelines or alternate terminology could be agreed with the EU to provide further clarity.

"Ministers have claimed that a VWA would... not cover work permits” (19 January 2021). Actually, creating a VWA could... deal with a separate issue to work permits. VWAs exist between the EU and third countries whereas EU Member States retain sovereign power over work permit rules."

ISM chief exec Deborah Annetts said: ‘It is extremely troubling that expert legal advice has exposed major flaws in the Government’s explanation for refusing to negotiate a Visa Waiver Agreement with the EU, which would help fix the Brexit touring crisis. With the music sector now looking beyond coronavirus, it is still virtually impossible for many creative professionals to work in Europe on a short term or freelance basis.

"Despite what MPs have been told by ministers, the latest legal advice has shown that it is entirely possible for the Government to create an agreement that would be compatible with their manifesto pledge, be legally binding and benefit specific professions without requiring a renegotiation of the Brexit Deal. Creating such an agreement is achievable, it simply requires the political will to deliver on the Prime Minister’s commitment to sort this mess out."

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