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Brexit Minister: Visa-Free Touring At Odds With Immigration Controls
Christian Eede , July 1st, 2021 10:06

In appearance before a select committee, Lord Frost insisted it wasn't his responsibility to solve the touring crisis that has emerged following Brexit

Brexit minister David Frost appeared before the Department for Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS) Committee earlier this week and insisted that he was not responsible for solving the crisis around visa-free touring that has come to light following the completion of Brexit at the start of this year.

Frost insisted that MPs' questions on the matter would be better put to DCMS minister Caroline Dinenage, as music industry figures and MPs continue to call for a speedier resolution to the issue. Current rules mean touring musicians and their crew from the UK must navigate complicated and pricey visa measures across each EU nation state when music events and touring return following the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's my role to make sure this issue is properly coordinated with all of our other business with the EU," said Lord Frost. "It's the responsibility of the DCMS to take this forward with our embassies and the engagement on this question has been done by officials from DCMS."

When pushed on whether or not the matter would be addressed by his department though, he said: "We hope to be able to deliver some results."

On the initial discussions that took place around the specific Brexit agreement between the UK and the EU, Frost said: "We did put forward proposals which would have very much solved the problem [of touring] we now face. Sadly, the EU wouldn't accept that. That's just the reality of the way these negotiations went."

Frost, however, admitted that the idea of a visa waiver proposal for artists and cultural figures threatened the UK government's desire to maintain controls on immigration.

"Free movement was an issue in the referendum, and it was very clear that free movement ends with our exit from the EU," he said. This government fought an election and won an election.

"We do not agree with permanent visa waivers because they deprive us of control over our immigration system. That's why we put those other [proposals forward] but unfortunately they weren't acceptable. I get that not everyone may agree with the end of free movement and its consequences, but it was the government's policy and that's what we are implementing."

DCMS is now said to be focused on discussing the issue with each of the EU's 27 member states, and the department has identified 17 EU members, including France and Germany, where the paperwork and rules are less complicated than initially feared. Discussions are ongoing with the other 10 countries, which include Spain.

"There at least 17 countries of the 27 where pretty normal or indeed entirely normal travel is possible for the purposes of carrying out performances in normal circumstances," said Lord Frost. "In practice, there would remain difficulties – I'm not denying that. But it is nevertheless the case that in big countries, like France and Germany, it is possible to travel without visas or work permits."

This latest hearing follows on from an inconclusive debate on the matter involving DCMS minister Caroline Dinenage in February.

Read tQ's piece on why artist visas are more than a Brexit issue here.