Elton John says government must act to save music industry from ‘looming catastrophe’ caused by Brexit or see it ‘crash and burn’

·3-min read

Elton John has issued a strongly worded statement warning the government that the UK is in danger of losing “a generation of talent” over the “gaping holes” in its trade deal with the EU.

As The Independent revealed earlier in the year, despite Boris Johnson’s vow to “fix” the crisis – triggered by his Brexit deal – no talks have taken place and artists have merely been promised advice on the daunting barriers they now face.

On Thursday 10 June, John shared a post to his Instagram revealing that he – along with his partner and Rocket Entertainment CEO David Furnish, Marshal Arts’ Craig Stanley and Lord Paul Strasberger – met with Lord Frost “to spell out the damage the trade agreement he negotiated with Europe is doing to the UK’s music industry”.

John warned that, due to the trade deal, new and emerging artist will be unable to tour Europe freely – “an essential part of their education and development” – due to the prohibitive nature of the newly required visas, carnets and permits.

“Despite this looming catastrophe, the government seems unable or unwilling to fix this gaping hole in their trade deal and defaults to blaming the EU rather than finding ways out of this mess,” the 74-year-old said.

“The situation is already critical and touring musicians, crews and support staff are already losing their livelihood.”

John stressed that he was not writing out of concern for artists who currently tour arenas and stadiums: “We are lucky enough to have the support staff, finance and infrastructure to cut through the red tape that Lord Frost’s no deal has created.”

“This gravest of situations is about the damage to the next generation of musicians and emerging artists, whose careers will stall before they’ve even started due to this infuriating blame game,” he wrote.

John said that had he faced the financial and logistical obstacles that young musicians do, he doubted he would be where he is today.

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“During our meeting Lord Frost said trying to solve this issue is a long process,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, our industry doesn’t have time. It is dying now. The government have broken the promise they outlined in 2020 to protect musicians and other creative industries from the impact of Brexit on tours to Europe.

“They now need to find solutions in both the short and long term to ensure the UK music industry continues to thrive.”

He concluded his statement by pointing to a “window of opportunity” created by the halt on touring the pandemic has caused.

“I call on the government to sort this mess out or we risk losing future generations of world-beating talent,” he said. “This is about whether one of the UK’s most successful industries, worth £111bn a year, is allowed to prosper and contribute hugely to both our cultural and economic wealth, or crash and burn.”

Last month, a legal opinion obtained by the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) dismantled the reasons given for the government’s failure to secure a visa waiver agreement (VWA) with Brussels.

The organisation also said the EU has no fewer than 28 such deals in place, which means performers in countries including Colombia, the UAE and Tonga can tour more easily than UK artists.

“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,” said Deborah Annetts, the ISM’s chief executive.

“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.”

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