We knew it was coming; leaving the EU would always mean less freedom of movement for goods, vehicles and people. There are issues to deal with, none of them insurmountable – this is event production after all. Of course, announcing a deal on Christmas Eve was a rather cruel twist when most of us were looking forward to a bit of a break; the industry’s most ardent Brexiteers (all six of you) would point out that even the timing was midnight in the EU rather than here.
It was pointed out that looking for the words ‘music’, ‘culture’ or ‘entertainment’ in the trade deal returned zero search results, while trawling for ‘fish’ or ‘fishing’ gave a couple of hundred results. Of course, the deal is very heavily weighted to trade in goods, so a keen eye on services linked to our sector was required. It’s not so much about what we are, but what we do, and that is move people and goods temporarily using road-going vehicles.
The best advice anyone can give at the moment is: don’t panic. At the time of writing, there are certainly some challenges, which are major or minor depending on the type or scale of the events you’re involved with. Here we can outline some and perhaps sketch out the plans that are already being formed by the industry groups that we’ve been working with for many years.
ACCESS FOR TRUCKS
This is a tough one. From 1 January, the rules governing the amount of stops a UK-registered haulage vehicle over 3.5t laden weight could make in the EU reduced from four to two. EU hauliers may well soon be restricted to stops in each EU member state. Hauliers have been meeting regularly through the negotiation period to get updates, none of which were positive. As it stands, the only answer is for haulage providers to relocate to an EU country; this puts UK-based technology suppliers at a disadvantage, as they’d be best located near the transport supply.
It is no exaggeration that this is a threat to our position as the go-to country for beginning European tours. This could be resolved by separate negotiations with separate member states as, believe it or not, they are not totally governed by the EU. There are multi-department meetings already arranged across international trade, transport and culture to start along the road to a solution, the issue is already flagged at high level in Government. If changes to rules for EU haulage providers come into force, that may well create an equal platform for the cultural sector to lobby for exemptions.
There is strength in the fact that 85% of EU concert haulage is currently provided from the UK. A sudden return to European touring would be stifled by lack of access; the choice for the EU is to either allow greater access or simply wait for businesses to relocate and employ EU-based workers paying tax in their new location.
ACCESS FOR WORKERS
Lots of confusion here between visas and work permits, with a very unhelpful ‘may require a work permit’ phrase permeating all conversations on this matter. Among the plethora of circumstances, we seem to be required to adopt the attitude of performers and crew from any other ‘third country’ – a status that we’ve adopted for ourselves – although when asked in the past, those that tour from bases outside the EU seemed to be of the opinion that, once you’d started in the UK, everything in Schengen fell into place. Another reason to start anywhere other than the UK.
As far as working in the EU from the UK, there’s the possibility of 27 different approaches to work permits for artists and crew. Initial outreach to promoters in EU member states is yet to glean any information and Government are adamant that they are not prepared to take on liability for producing separate guidance for each member state. As with everything, the assumption that it’s been OK for other third countries before so it will be OK for us could be a risky one to make. This could be a simple matter of us treating others as we’d like to be treated, setting clear exemptions for cultural activity or live events and hoping for similar in return, 27 times.
BENEFITS AND NATIONAL INSURANCE
We’re sure many have experienced the delights of Form A1. In essence, when you work in a country, that country expects you to pay into its benefits system through their equivalent of National Insurance Contributions. Many have a number of exemptions, some requiring proof that you’ll be making contributions back home and not suddenly becoming dependent on a foreign country’s state benefits system that you haven’t contributed to. Our exit from the EU means that we’re hovering over a reset button, with a delay in the imposition of contributions for all workers that hop over from the UK to work.
The trade deal talks of ‘detached workers’, which are workers who are working in an EU state for less than 24 months. EU member states are being given an opt into this detached worker scheme (reciprocal, we believe), with a deadline of 31 January. So far, four member states have opted in and the opt out rate is currently zero (at time of writing). If, for example, France were to opt out, we’ve been assured that HMRC wouldn’t expect to charge contributions on money already ‘taxed’ overseas. The mechanism for ensuring that was not explained when we asked.
It’s interesting that the popular petition doing the rounds, the one asking for a two-year performer and crew visa (or is that work permit?) has an afterthought addition asking for the removal of carnet requirements. It could be said that asking for too much may get you nothing and, in this case, they’re asking to remove something that’s been in use throughout the existence of the EU; tours do carnets, we’ll just have to do more. Of course, this is a question of scale; grassroots bands could successfully tour the carnet-free zone until they could afford the extra paperwork and expense. Then it gets to a point where the costs don’t matter relative to the money generated from a tour. ATA carnets are something that people may have to get used to; it’s also something that could benefit from a little financial support at grass roots level from the UK Government, along with some sector-specific advice – who knows if you have to include your towel? The COVID-19 delay silver lining appears here too; it doesn’t really matter how good your paperwork is if there’s a vehicle in front of you holding up the queue because theirs is not in order. Tales of woe due to misinterpretation of rules exist; perhaps any border misunderstandings will be settled by the time we have to cross.
For a deal four years in the making, it’s surprisingly light in detail. Perhaps if it did mention music, touring, events, entertainment or anything specifically relevant, it could have been bad news. Perhaps now we have an opportunity to influence the required detail and find the answer: 42.
This article originally appeared in issue #257 of TPi, which you can read here.