Bookings of UK musicians at the EU’s biggest festivals have crashed by 45 per cent, in the starkest evidence yet of the damage from the Brexit trade deal.
The agreement – which inflicted punishing costs and red tape by removing visa-free touring – is being blamed for the huge slump in appearances at the events in Spain, Hungary and Germany.
At last week’s Benicassim alternative music festival, near Valencia, just 14 UK artists played – down from an average of 24 between 2017 and 2019, the figures show.
Likewise, at next month’s Sziget Festival in Budapest, only 18 UK acts are booked to appear, compared with an average of 25 in the three years before Brexit.
And only four British artists are scheduled to play at the Lollapalooza festival in Berlin in September – down from 11 across the period between 2017 and 2019.
Best for Britain, the internationalist campaign group which researched the statistics, said they were evidence of the “dud Brexit deal”, now festivals are recovering from the Covid pandemic.
“The Beatles famously made their name in Europe and it’s on tour that many musicians gain the formative experiences and audiences they need to take off, said Naomi Smith, its chief executive.
“Our government has not only robbed emerging British talent of these opportunities abroad, but has also made international acts think twice before including Glasgow or London in their European tours.”
Deborah Annetts, head of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, said the figures underlined how, for festival organisers, British bands are “at the bottom of your list due to new barriers created”.
She added: “Whoever ends up replacing Boris Johnson must commit to removing this needless bureaucracy which is stifling the prosperity and creativity of the next generation of British musicians.”
The loss of bookings at the major festivals will fuel ongoing fears about the plight of musicians losing the chance to further their careers, after the Brexit deal broke a promise to save visa-free touring.
The Independent revealed how the UK rejected an EU offer of a “mobility” agreement, leaving artists mired in red tape. No effort has been made to begin fresh talks with Brussels.
Instead, ministers have made “misleading” claims about the costs and paperwork involved – despite Mr Johnson’s public vow to “fix” the crisis, made more than a year ago.
It was revealed that a production of Phantom of the Opera was brought in from China to tour the EU, because Brexit red tape made it too “expensive” to use a British one.
Elton John has led criticism of the betrayal of musicians, while the rock band White Lies attacked the “appalling” Brexit customs rules which saw them forced to cancel a performance in Paris after equipment was seized.
David Frost, who negotiated the agreement, admitted it had been a mistake not to compromise with the EU and called for a rethink – but ministers have failed to budge.