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WINTER 21 / 22 | OPINION

Learnings for post-Brexit touring

UK Music deputy chief executive Tom Kiehl is the music industry umbrella group ’ s Brexit specialist . Here he provides his perspective of the challenges around post- Brexit touring arrangements , having recently returned from France where he discussed the issues with officials .

I n the centre of the French port of Calais there stands a statue of President Charles de Gaulle and his wife , Yvonne . For it was in Calais that the two were married . The statue is a somewhat ominous sign for touring UK musicians and crew at what is now , for them , the first point of entry into the EU market . It was President de Gaulle , after all , who was the leading international statesman who blocked the UK ’ s membership of the Common Market in the 1960s , perhaps instilling within the British psyche the sense that they were never truly part of the European project in the first place .

Thankfully , local municipal officials in Calais are taking a more constructive approach to Franco-British cultural relations and invited Dave Webster from the Musicians ’ Union and me to visit them in early November to discuss post-Brexit arrangements for touring . At the beginning of the year , the failure of the
Tom Kiehl
EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement to deliver a deal for international touring was a huge blow for UK artists . Musicians and crew now have to navigate 27 different rules , requirements and potential costs in order to tour across the EU .
The statue of Charles de Gaulle and wife , Yvonne
Many countries do offer some form of short-term visa or permit-free touring , but there are huge variations in the duration allowed from country to country , as well as additional admin in some cases .
France , for instance , does not require work permits for cultural events and visas are not needed for short stays . Yet if you are performing as a UK musician in France there may be a registration process that requires proof of accommodation , booked paid engagements , return tickets and other documentary evidence to support working in the country .
Furthermore , musicians may now require an ATA Carnet to transport instruments and equipment to enter countries like France , though a musician accompanying a portable instrument should mean it ’ s exempt . Stamps from “ designated ports ” such as Calais may also be required for CITES certificates , due to the materials involved in the manufacture of certain instruments . There is also a discrepancy in the value of merchandise that musicians can carry in their baggage without charge between the UK and France .
A further challenge for post- Brexit touring is that , because of the pandemic and the lack of international touring , few UK musicians will have been through the EU system over the past year . Customs officials in Calais have been focusing on wider freight and carnet issues and touring has not been properly stress-tested yet . The clear message from officials in Calais that we met with is that if a musician has paperwork that needs to be stamped , be it an ATA Carnet or CITES MIC , they should take the Freight Channel when arriving in France . Exiting via the Tourist Channel would mean the relevant officials not being present to activate these documents and could lead to big problems further down the line .
President de Gaulle once said “ politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians ” and , when considering the constructive relationship that our trip to Calais has forged , he may have a point . Given the complexities of the post-Brexit world we now operate in can we do without our politicians to fix this though ? The answer is an emphatic “ non ”.
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