money cigar

With no-deal Brexit is looking like the chaotic outcome of the euro-mess many musicians are confused by the upcoming situation that could jeopardise touring outside the UK. Of course, things may not change at all or they may get thrown into complete chaos – no-one knows and it’s that lack of information or planning that is making people very nervous.

There are many questions being asked about projected European tours from Oct 31st onwards and no answers. Boris Johnson and his hot air rhetoric and the potential of a no-deal Brexit leaves no answers and lots of confusion.

We need answers with tours in place for after the Brexit date and no way of knowing whether they will happen or not.

1. Will bands need visas or work permits?
No-one knows and the uncertainty is a nightmare.
If there is a sudden last-minute decision to have work permits then tours will be getting cancelled left, right and centre and if the situation escalates will we end up with a situation like with our ‘special relationship’ friends in the USA? The cost of British bands getting work permits to tour America has increased to up to £5000 making it impossible to tour the land of the free (it costs £30 for American bands to come to the UK)

2. Carnets
Another obstacle touring musicians could face is having to pay for a permit, known as a carnet, for every instrument they take into Europe – to prove they are not trading them internationally.
The return of the dreaded carnet could see the return of the confusion and extra paperwork of the forms where every item of musical equipment had to be listed and a deposit paid for before it could be taken over the border.
What it meant was huge deposits of up top 300 per cent on gear and hours and hours of waiting at borders to get forms stamped and gear checked through.

3. Border crossing
Instead of the roll-on/roll-off ferries – the future could see massive tailbacks with bands being trapped in the lorry queue and tailbacks lasting hours meaning missed ferries, complications at ports and airports. Touring will find to a halt with extra days off having to be added to itineraries just to get in and out of the UK.

3. Copyright laws might be “thrown in the air.”
Boris Johnson has already voiced his disapproval of the new EU copyright law, which made services like YouTube liable if users uploaded copyrighted material without permission. In a tweet, Johnson called the law “terrible for the internet” and said copyright was an area where the UK could “take back control”.
His stance understandably gave the music industry cause for concern over added confusion in a time of uncertainty.

4. The escalation of costs for UK acts to tour Europe
The rising costs will mean they could lose more money with their current fees or have to charge more in a very competitive market place where UK music has to compete far more than in the past – will international promoters want to pay extra?

5. Merchandise
A key course of survival on the road, merchandise, will need to to be shipped directly to Europe instead of being taken over the UK border.

6. The cost of production of CDs and vinyl could rise
Most CDs are made in Europe at the moment and to import them back into the UK will suddenly rise with potential added tariffs – the margins most musicians exist on are tiny and this will cause another layer of unneeded chaos.

7. No-deal Brexit could also mean many non-UK acts being put off coming to the UK
With the reciprocal measures potentially being put in place to make it difficult for non-UK acts to get visas and permits will there be a cultural loss that has already been felt at festivals like WOMAD?

8. Driving License

There is also the issue of a Driving Licence, a standard UK Photo Licence might not be enough; drivers will have to apply for an International Driving Permit (£5.50) and a trip to the Post Office taking a Passport, and possibly a passport photo.


Sincve the article went up we got sent this great update on how bad this could get from Barry Phillips…


So much confusion and misinformation. I worked for UK Immigration (IND/OLS) processing Work Permits for Sports People & Entertainers and the majority of EU bands who currently come to the UK will no longer be able to come because
a) promoters will not be able to afford it (the actual cost for non EU bands is £244 per person, including roadies, drivers etc plus bank statements to show that all have at least £945 in the bank),
b) promoters will not want the hassle and
c) most will get refused a ‘work permit’ anyway e.g. “make a unique contribution to the UK labour market, for example, you’re internationally renowned or are required for continuity”
d) they must also be guaranteed to meet minimum wage standards as set by MU, BECTU, Equity etc

There is good reason to expect the EU to reciprocate. Since I live in the EU I have attended the meetings with the British Embassy and the Lead Negotiator from DExEU and it was perfectly clear that they have already made reciprocal arrangements for the professions they consider important – lawyers, financial sector, journalists. After Brexit a Brit living in NL, for example, can only work in NL (unless they are on the list of reciprocal professions – they had not even thought of the Brits who work the Rhine riverboats or Channel inshore boats).

The best we can hope for is that the EU continues to allow a single work permit/visa for the entire Union (which I as Brit living in the EU would need to play in any of the other 26 countries outside NL). But you have to ask why should e.g, France help a UK band to work in 27 countries whilst a French band has to go through the same process and pay the same to work in one?

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. Very sad and depressing times.. the dreaded carnet, where an overly zealous border guard will be hunting the extra guitar lead.. Fuck Brexit.

  2. The entire shit show is going to be our £trusty Billingdon Bastards” having a field day of extra taxation on the already impoverished. All to ensure wholesale tax evasion on their part and their benefactors…… Obviously it’ll spend the end of any real D.I.Y. levels bands being able to cost effectively touring Europe……..


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