Elton John has entered the steamy debate surrounding the difficulties which will now face emerging British musicians in post-Brexit Europe. Writing in The Guardian, he describes the ensuing set of circumstances as ‘an administrative nightmare that vastly increases the cost of staging a European tour.’ John speaks candidly about how he, like The Beatles, cut his teeth playing to European audiences in Hamburg and expresses great sadness that this will not be something that current emerging artists are likely to be able to do.
The veteran British artists and knight of the realm made his thoughts very clear about the lack of consideration for musicians in the Brexit negations, saying that ‘The situation we’re now in is ridiculous. Music is one of Britain’s greatest cultural exports. It contributed £5.8bn to the British economy in 2019, but was left out of the Brexit trade negotiations when other industries weren’t.’ Despite all of this the governments response to protests from the industry following the release of the deal’s details has been reluctant at most and seemed mostly to be an attempt at shirking most of the blame to the European side.
These comments from Elton John come a couple of weeks after he announced in his Instagram profile that he had signed a letter ‘urging the UK government to fulfil its promise to negotiate permit and paperwork-free travel in Europe for British artists, their road crew and equipment.’ The announcement was paired with an image of the singer performing in Verona, Italy in 2019. The biggest concern Sir Elton John has, he says, not for himself who will still be able to perform in Europe, but for the younger emerging artists who do not have the same financially resources which come with a long established career. The singer states that ‘none of this affects me. I’m lucky enough to play big venues and have a huge organisation supporting me. My tours can absorb these costs, and I have people working for me who can sort out the admin.’
The Guardian also reports that Radiohead’s bassist Colin Greenwood has written an article due to be published tomorrow in the paper which further criticises the changes. According to Greenwood, ‘The costs of travel and accommodation are already high, and the extra paperwork and expenses would rise quickly for a touring orchestra.’ If these costs are set to be so high that musicians are worrying about the fate of touring orchestras, then surely bands emerging from grassroots venues and scenes in the UK will have an even tougher time, with European tours already operating on a shoestring budget pre-Brexit.
The situation is mired in confusion and miscommunication and pretty much everyone in the UK music industry is disappointed with how the government has handled their interests in the negotiations. After the announcement of the final Brexit deal which had not mention of visa considerations for musicians, a petition was launched to counter this and the government’s culture minister will have some difficult questions to answer when it is debated in parliament tomorrow.