A new petition requesting a push for free permits to allow touring professionals to take up work across the EU without visas has amassed over 170,000 signatories over the last week.
As the Brexit deadline looms and a deal between the UK and EU Member states enters its final stages of completion, many in the theatre world are concerned about new bureaucratic and financial hurdles that will be put in place for those seeking to work or tour across the continent following the UK's exit from the EU.
Composer, broadcaster and writer Howard Goodall has laid out some of the key consequences in an incredibly informative article.
Under the current deal rules, companies are allowed to make visa-free business trips to the EU, but with several restrictions that will make it difficult for arts professionals to present shows as usual. As the petition notes, there are further problems with regards to a "carnet" – in effect a "passport" for rented goods being used professionally.
The petition is asking for some sort of settlement between the UK and EU member states to provide visa-free travel across Europe after Brexit. The petition's creator, video technician Tim Brennan, reiterated that the imminent visa system may make tours "impossible" and a further blow after the gruelling year of Covid-related lockdowns.
As Brennan puts it: "After the end of the transition period, we face further hardship when trying to tour the EU on a professional basis, with potentially each country asking for its own visa, that would be valid only for one trip."
Goodall highlighted in further tweets today that it is the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden who must make the case for such free visas for arts professionals, with nothing about the creative sectors mentioned in the current Brexit deal document. As he highlights: "The creative industries and financial services are our biggest foreign earners, by a gigantic margin. Between them their earnings for the UK would pay for all state education and the NHS annually."
Goodall also notes that a free permit across the UK and member states for artists would be unprecedented – it was instead the principle of free movement of workers (laid out in a variety of articles in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union) that allowed for creatives to work across EU nations – rather than a common consensus on the significant part played by the arts sectors across the world.
By leaving the EU, the UK has turned its back on this free movement of workers principle, and has, over the last few years, created tougher visa requirements for artists coming into the UK.
But of course, the more noise the better – and the greater the number of signatories on the petition, the more recognition the cause will receive. With more than 100,000 now lending their weight to the cause, the issue will have to be considered for debate in parliament.