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Elton John calls on No 10 to renegotiate Brexit deal after ‘screwing up’ on visas for musicians

Elton John performing on stage - Credit: PA

Elton John has called on the government to renegotiate a better settlement for musicians after they were largely ignored during Brexit negotiations.

The British pop icon accused Boris Johnson of having “screwed up” by failing to reach an agreement with the EU for visa-free tours by British musicians.

John said Britain’s Brexit negotiators either “didn’t care about musicians, or didn’t think about them, or weren’t sufficiently prepared”.

Writing for the Guardian, John said: “The situation we’re now in is ridiculous. Music is one of Britain’s greatest cultural exports. It contributed £5.8bn to the British economy in 2019, but was left out of the Brexit trade negotiations when other industries weren’t.

“Workers from some professions are still allowed to travel on business without applying for a visa. But not musicians.

“Either the Brexit negotiators didn’t care about musicians, or didn’t think about them, or weren’t sufficiently prepared. They screwed up. It’s ultimately down to the British government to sort it out: they need to go back and renegotiate.”

The musician made clear his intervention was “not about Elton John”, but rather about fledgeling artists with little or no access to financial resources.

“If Brexit prevents many new musicians from touring, the only artists who are going to have any meaningful kind of live career are big, august, mainstream artists like me,” he adds. “And, trust me, I don’t want that any more than you do.”

Just last week, the singer-songwriter claimed that up-and-coming acts hoping to tour the continent will be “up against a brick wall” of fresh “bureaucracy”, “paperwork”.

This comes after a Tory minister admitted the UK rejected a proposal by the EU to extend the music visa scheme in favour of more stringent border policies.

MORE: Jacob Rees-Mogg says it’s ‘all the EU’s fault’ musicians can’t tour Europe

MORE: Bob Geldof takes swipe at No 10 saying ‘lying is second nature’ to them

Culture minister Caroline Dinenage said No 10 declined the offer because it would have meant allowing “visa-free short-stays for all EU citizens”.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Dinenage said: “The EU did not offer a deal that would have worked for musicians.

“It’s quite simple, the EU in fact made a very broad offer which would not have been compatible with the government’s manifesto commitment to take back control of our borders.”

No 10 last month admitted an EU proposal to allow visa-free tours by musicians was rejected, apparently because of a belief it clashed with ending free movement.