Sir Elton John to ‘go into battle’ in fight for musicians’ visa-free EU touring

4 February 2021, 12:33 | Updated: 4 February 2021, 13:02

Sir Elton John to ‘go into battle’ in fight for visa-free EU touring
Sir Elton John to ‘go into battle’ in fight for visa-free EU touring. Picture: Getty

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

The star vows to “go into battle” to protect young musicians from the financial and administrative “obstacles” of touring in the EU.

Sir Elton John has said “we have to do something now” in the wake of post-Brexit regulations which will burden musicians wanting to tour EU countries with separate costs and paperwork for each member state.

Under the new trade deal, musicians could be faced with visas, work permits and instrument carnets to perform across the EU. Leading conductor Simon Halsey tweeted yesterday that a visa for working in Spain for 90 days will cost him £485.

Sir Elton said the creative industry must “club together” to save the industry for young stars.

“The young have so much to offer,” the 73-year-old star told ITV News. “I love them, they inspire me. So do the old, but this is the old trying to offer something for the young.

“So, listen, I’m here for you and let’s go into battle.”

Read more: Music stars ‘shamefully failed by government’ over EU travel >

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Sir Elton added on Twitter that he had had “very positive” talks with culture secretary Oliver Dowden in which he spoke of the value of Britain’s leading ballet and opera companies as well as its world-famous pop artists.

However, he added that visa-free touring is not currently “on the cards”.

“We both agree that there is lots to be achieved by working together to find a solution to the problem, providing opportunities for the next generation of musicians to tour the EU without prohibitive red tape,” Sir Elton said.

Oliver Dowden also tweeted about his 20-minute conversation with the singer, saying there is currently “lots of work going on in government” to enable musicians to tour “both the EU and the rest of the world more easily”.

Sir Elton was among many high-profile British artists to put his name to a public letter in January saying musicians have been “shamefully failed” by the government, who rejected calls to rescue visa-free tours and claimed it was the EU that turned down the UK’s proposal, which would have allowed musicians to tour.

The EU has denied these claims, saying the UK’s proposal would not have solved the issue.

Signed by conductor Sir Simon Rattle, violinist Nicola Benedetti and singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, the letter denounced the government’s “negotiating failure” and warned in the current COVID climate, added costs and paperwork could “tip many performers over the edge”.

At the time, ministers said allowing a ‘no visas’ policy for musicians would be incompatible with the government’s pledge to “take back control” of UK borders.

London major Sadiq Khan described the move yesterday as “ridiculous” and “a huge blow to thousands of artists and businesses in an already struggling industry”.

“I’m asking them to rethink this immediately,” he tweeted. “This sector needs support – not more red tape.”

Let Music Live protest on London's Parliament Square

In his interview with ITV, Sir Elton warned that “making obstacles” for young musicians is “not good for the world in general”.

He also spoke about the important of music to bring people together.

“Music is a healer and we can’t lose sight of this,” he said. “Especially in a fractured world, we need all the healing we can get.”