Tory MP Bernard Jenkin urges visa deal for EU musicians
Eurosceptic Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin has urged the UK government to guarantee free movement for top EU musicians after Brexit.
Mr Jenkin, who trained as an opera singer before entering politics, warned the music world was facing “paralysis” over the issue.
He said the UK did not have to wait for a deal with the EU to set up a visa system for visiting musicians.
He was quizzing minister Matt Hancock at a Tory conference fringe meeting.
Mr Hancock hinted a new regime could be put in place soon, after listening to pleas from Mr Jenkin and John McLeod, a board member of Manchester’s world-renowned Halle Orchestra.
Mr McLeod said it was not just visiting soloists – who sometimes had to be flown in at the last moment to cover for sickness – that needed to know they would not be stopped at the border.
“We employ lots on international musicians on full employment contracts on a continuous basis and we are bit worried.
“We will listen to 100 musicians just to employ one musician and if we appointed them on the basis that they are, maybe, British passport holders, as opposed to Spanish passport holders, that’s a concern, because there’s a quality issue.”
Mr Jenkin, a leading campaigner for Britain’s exit from the EU, said the government should act to end the uncertainty now, because top orchestras had very long “lead times” and sometimes booked musicians “two years hence”.
“They need to know where they stand. This is something we can decide for ourselves.
“We don’t need to wait for an agreement but there is a sense, the same applies to seasonal workers in agriculture, that there is paralysis because everyone has been told not to announce anything, or decide anything, until further agreement has been made.
“There are things we need to get on with and decide and implement for ourselves, whatever the outcome of the negotiations.”
Digital Minister Matt Hancock, who is also responsible for the UK’s creative industries, told the meeting: “I entirely agree that we don’t need to wait for a deal before we set out the direction of future immigration policy and I take your pleadings to get on with it.”
He added: “I hope we can come to a good and reasonable resolution on this.”
The meeting was chaired by former Labour MP Michael Dugher, the chief executive of trade body UK Music, who has called for the introduction of an EU-wide live music ‘passport’ for British artists to ensure freedom of movement after Brexit.