Stars sign open letter warning government about the perils of loss of touring as National cancels EU tours

As the full impact of the disastrous Brexit becomes apparent, with jobs and businesses forced to relocate in the EU to stand any chance of survival, high-profile figures in the theatre and entertainment worlds have joined forces in supporting acting union Equity’s letter to the government warning them of the huge financial consequences of failing to put any genuine effort into finding a solution to the current EU touring access crisis.

As reported in the Guardian, the actors’ union letter of 16th February states “Before, we were able to travel to Europe visa-free. Now we have to pay hundreds of pounds, fill in form after form, and spend weeks waiting for approval – just so we can do our jobs,”

The rapidly increasing prevalence of advertised work requiring an EU passport as part of the qualifications needed means that “the cost and bureaucracy that now comes with hiring British talent” has created “a towering hurdle” for UK artists and technicians in earning a living after one full year of receiving zero support from the government’s poorly-constructed and dangerously flawed Culture Recovery Fund.

The letter is signed by such luminaries as Sir Ian McKellen, Julie Walters and Patrick Stewart.

It comes at a pivotal moment for touring, as on February 17th the National Theatre announced that all its EU touring plans were to be put on hold indefinitely until some resolution appears to the EU visa crisis.

A National Theatre spokesperson said “We hope to resume European touring. However, we’re currently unable to make firm plans because of Brexit legislation; the potential additional costs for visas and current uncertainty around social security contributions mean regrettably it is currently not financially viable……We hope that in future we’ll return to tour in Europe. However, that will not be possible until we have further clarity on these points.”

As described in an earlier article on this blog, the fault of this lays squarely at the feet of the UK government. The EU offered a 90-day visa free artists exchange reciprocal agreement as part of the Brexit deal which the UK turned down flat because it did not wish to reciprocate, thus destroying the possibility of tens of thousands of talented artists, musicians and technicians starting to earn a living again after the Coronavirus hiatus. Unparalleled incompetence from an amateur government who cannot even understand the fact that the arts bring over £10billion into the economy annually, bringing far more to the UK economy than many other sectors including fishing and car manufacturing.

What an utter failure this government is.

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