Brexit and Music:

A Letter From The British Department

of Culture, Media and Sport

What will Brexit mean for the music industry?  

The famed and talked about Brexit, the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, is an actual fact since the last day of 2020, that is the 31st January. The consequences and the general impact for both sides, UK and EU, are obviously a huge matter and relevant analyses and observations are yet to come.

Here in The Basement, we as usually focused on music and wondered how the whole thing will influence one of the biggest and most historical music industries worldwide, the British music industry of course. We tried to get some answers to our questions calling upon the British government itself, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in particular. The people from the department were kind enough to respond and we present you their illuminating and very interesting answer, including some additional thoughts and support measures against the Covid crisis.


Thank you for your correspondence of 15 January, regarding concerns about British musicians being able to perform in EU countries. I am replying as a member of the Ministerial Support Team at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

This Government recognises the importance of the UK’s thriving cultural industries, and pushed for ambitious arrangements for performers and artists to be able to work across Europe.

In negotiations with the EU on business travel, we proposed to expand the list of permitted activities for short-term business visitors, notably to include the work done by artists, entertainers and musicians, and their supporting staff. This would have ensured that musicians could have travelled to the EU without requiring work-permits. However, the EU rejected this. It is worth noting that the EU rejected all of our proposed additions to the list of short-term business visitor activities.

The EU rejected our proposals because they considered that touring musicians were providing a service directly to consumers rather than performing a “business visit”, and that such service provisions should be regulated in the same way as other service providers – i.e. with visas and/or work permits. The UK pointed out that other types of short-term business visitors provide direct services, such as after-sales technicians, and that there was therefore a precedent for being more flexible here, but the EU did not alter its position.

The reports recently in the news are misleading and do not accurately describe the EU position. During negotiations the EU tabled text regarding the paid activities that can be conducted without a visa. These proposals would not have addressed this sector's concerns. The proposals were non-binding, did not include touring or technical staff, and did not address work permits. The EU’s proposals were also part of a package on visa-free travel that was not consistent with the UK’s manifesto commitment to take back control of our borders.

The UK has secured the inclusion of a review clause on the list of permitted activities for short-term business visitors, which could allow both parties to update their commitments further down the line.

Customs Process

In terms of customs processes, the deal delivers on the government’s promise to take the UK out of the EU’s customs territory and to regain control of our borders. The government has always been clear that this means there will be new customs processes on goods headed from GB into the EU and vice versa. These processes ensure that customs authorities remain able to protect their regulatory, security and financial interests.

Carnets can be used to temporarily move eligible goods into the EU, including professional equipment, as an alternative to facing full customs controls. This is already an option for movements from the UK to many other non-EU countries. It reflects the established international approach, in line with conventions covering temporary goods movements (the ATA and Istanbul Conventions).

Travel Advice

The government is committed to supporting individuals and businesses to understand the actions needed from 1 January 2021. We have published guidance on GOV.UK, including updated travel advice for travelling to the EU and we are engaging regularly with our embassies to support UK nationals abroad. We continue to urge individuals and businesses to familiarise themselves with the actions they will need to take by visiting

EU musicians coming to the UK

The UK’s rules for EU visitors allows musicians, entertainers and artists, as well as their accompanying staff, to give performances and take part in cultural events, without requiring a visa. They can do this for up to 6 months in a year. Allowing musicians to visit the UK is part of our global visitor rules, as it was when we were EU members. These rules apply to everyone coming to the UK as a visitor. For longer term visits, work or study, we have introduced the new global points based immigration system which applies regardless of nationality.

Funding to help combat the impact of Covid-19

We understand that Covid-19 has been a very tough period for the creative arts sector but there is help available provided by the government. Last year the Secretary of State announced an unprecedented £1.57 billion support package for the cultural sector. The Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) has already benefited a wide range of cultural organisations, including venues, festivals and theatres. The £1 billion already committed has supported 3,000 organisations and more than 75,000 jobs, with many more freelancers and jobs in vital supply chain industries also benefitting. Round 2 of this scheme reopened for applications on 6 January. Please find more details on the Arts Council England Website.

The Self-Employed Income Support Scheme has been extended until April 2021 and has been made more generous, with individuals able to receive 80% of their average trading profits for the period November to January. The government is providing the same level of support for the self-employed as is being provided for employees through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which has also been extended until April 2021. Please find more details here.

Thank you for your continued support, creativity and resilience at this hugely challenging time.

Yours sincerely,

Ministerial Support Team
Department of Culture, Media and Sport

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