EU sidelined: UK to ignore Brussels chiefs and speak directly to countries on Brexit issue

Oliver Dowden hits out at ‘absurd and self-defeating' EU

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Officials have confirmed they will hold talks with individual countries as soon as next month in a bid to alleviate concerns of the music industry over touring visas. Under the Brexit trade deal, artists are bound by rules set by member states rather than Brussels after a failure to agree terms on the matter in talks before Christmas.

The UK has blamed the EU for the problems facing the industry saying Brussels rejected a “generous offer” made by Britain.

Now, officials from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) have confirmed they intend to talks to Europe’s capitals to fix the issues.

“The conversations we want to be having with member states will be happening very shortly,” Alastair Jones, DCMS deputy director for creative and cultural touring project told MPs this morning.

He added the talks could begin “potentially as soon as” in two weeks times.

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He told members of the DCMS select committee: “With those conversations, we’ll be exploring where improvements to arrangements can be made.

“Those conversations are happening within Government now and they’ll be happening with member states very shortly.”

Under the current agreement, artists could be required to fill in bureaucratic paperwork for every country in which they intend to tour, even if they are only staying in the member state for a matter of days.

The music industry has warned the red tape risks making large European tours unviable.

Britain has said it is eager to fix the issues as soon as possible but the EU capitals must also be willing to initiate such an agreement.

Mr Jones told the committee: “We need to see what’s possible.

“The problem we had in negotiations was a lack of appetite on the EU’s side.

“The EU rejected our proposal that would have worked, that would have met the sector’s concerns.

“From what I hear from the negotiators during that process there was just a lack of appetite from the EU’s side to really engage and make a workable solution.”

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Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, spelt out the urgency in fixing the deal for artists.

She said touring musicians are thinking in “quite desperate” terms about whether they can continue in the industry with post-Brexit travel rules.

The sector leader called on Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage negotiate with European capitals to “put in place a visa waiver agreement”.

Earlier this month Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden accused the EU of being “absurd and self-defeating” by rejecting an offer made by the UK in trade talks to secure visas for touring artists.

However, the European Commission has blamed Britain saying UK negotiators “refused to include a commitment on visa-free short stays”, which could have helped musicians and other artists when touring.

“As a result, it is now up to each member state to determine if a visa is required for short-stay visits for the purpose of carrying out a paid activity.

“This is fully in line with EU law.”

Explaining Britain’s decision to not agree with the counter-offer from the EU, Mr Dowden said: “The reason why we rejected the offer from the European Union was that it wasn’t binding, it didn’t cover touring, it didn’t cover technical support staff, and crucially, it didn’t cover work permits.”

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