Pete Wishart – 2021 Speech on UK Musicians and EU Visas

The speech made by Pete Wishart, the SNP MP for Perth and North Perthshire, in the House of Commons on 19 January 2021.

That is an immensely disappointing response from the Minister. Touring Europe means everything to our artists and musicians: the thrill of that first tour, crammed into the Transit van with all your gear; four to a room in a cheap hotel in Paris, Rotterdam or Hamburg; using what is left of the fee for a post-gig beer; the dream of coming back on a lavish tour bus, staying at five-star hotels—gone, all gone. Musicians and artists are mere collateral in this Government’s obsession with ending freedom of movement.

Does the Minister acknowledge that visas and carnets will render such tours beyond the financial reach of future generations of new musicians? Does she appreciate that is not just our new musicians but the whole creative sector that will have increased costs and red tape? What will she say to the crews, the technicians, the set designers, the transport? We were promised by her predecessor that arrangements would not change. What has happened to that commitment? The EU said it was prepared to offer a 90-day deal. Why was that turned down? The Government said they were holding out for a better deal, but we have ended up with nothing. How could that happen? Given that the Minister’s approach is totally contradicted by the EU, will she provide complete transparency in all these negotiations?

Our constituents really care about this; 263,000 have now signed the petition organised by our artists, calling for this to get sorted. We do not want any more of the EU-blaming—we have had quite enough of that in the past few years; we just want the Government to fix this. The Secretary of State has said that the door is still open, so will she walk through and fix it out? Will she restart talks with the EU immediately, to get our artists the arrangements that they need? Will she let the music tour freely once again?