Question – so when does visa free touring in 19 EU countries not mean visa free touring in 19 EU countries? Answer – when it’s the UK government saying so!

The British government has been under some pressure for a while now to do something about the issue of musicians and such not being able to tour the EU anymore. They’ve approached it with much the same urgency they’ve handled issues with fishing or trade between Northern Ireland and Britain – namely, no urgency whatsoever.

In a desperate bid to make it look like they’re doing something, the Government put this on its website yesterday. Releasing such news in the middle of the summer is a notorious tactic from governments keen to avoid being exposed to parliamentary scrutiny – because then people might realise they’re not actually doing anything.

It bothers me how few people are questioning this announcement – because the more you look at it, the more worthless it appears. For starters, much of the announcement simply explains what’s in place now. So instead of dealing with one system where you could take all the people, instruments and the rest across the EU you wanted, you’re dealing with individual countries with individual requirements.

In regards to these 19 individual countries, short visits were always permitted. This is the arrangement already in place for so-called third countries. The Government is now trying to pretend that a rule which already exists is evidence of its “progress” on dealing with the issue. Short visits were never explicitly banned as such – the problem was getting the equipment and such over to make a tour feasible.

The announcement also has nothing to say about the support staff. Yes, the musicians can go about more freely – but most musicians don’t go about alone. Visas would still be required for all such people – and the only way to avoid such a requirement appears to be to set up an EU-based subsidiary company with staff also based in the EU.

British musicians might want to get on a recruiting spree for such talent in Dublin, if that’s the case…

There’s still no answer on the question of carnets – this is something required for bringing musical instruments into the European Union – and trying to sell merchandise looks like a logistical nightmare, with taxes potentially being payable in each country you sell in. When all this stuff is combined, British musicians heading into the EU still face higher costs and fewer ways of making money.

Lesson of the day? Always read government announcements more than once. And even then, don’t believe everything you’ve read…