Call for clarity on European work visas

Equity are calling for claritfrom the Government on their recent announcement on European work visas and work permits. The Government announced on 4 August that nineteen EU member states will allow performers visa and work permit free short term touring work.​ While the announcement is a welcome one, more clarity is needed. General Secretary Paul W Fleming has today (10 August) written an open letter to Oliver Dowden Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport asking for further explanation on key issues affecting creatives working in the EU.

Open letter to Oliver Dowden MP

Dear Mr Dowden,

Announcement on European Visas & Work Permits

I am writing regarding Wednesday’s announcement from the government that nineteen EU member states will allow performers visa and work permit free short term touring work.

Such an announcement is a welcome one, as previous announcements have only covered visa provisions – it has indeed been the case since January 2021 that all UK nationals can travel for up to 90 days out of every 180 in the Schengen area. As you know, however, permission to work is a different matter, and Wednesday’s announcement appears to imply this this ability in a more standardised way by referring to work permits.

However, almost a week has now passed, and beyond the five-paragraph press release, no further detail has been forthcoming. Alongside our fellow trade unions and campaign groups, we have asked for the clarity needed to show that this is meaningful progress, as the release implies. Without such clarity, any improvements will be overshadowed by a continued descent into farce.

Simply put, we would appreciate an immediate answer to the following questions:

  • What is meant by ‘short term’ touring? Do these provisions apply only to productions which move within or between states, or do they include British artists travelling to Europe to take part in a production at a single venue?
  • How do work permit-free regimes interconnect to facilitate multi-state touring?
  • Is the definition of short term touring common to all 19 EU member states on your list?
  • Is the definition of touring or the waivers common to all 19 countries? Presuming it is not, when can we expect a clear and accessible list for artists and producers summarising the different regimes?
  • From what date does any new regime apply?
  • Do any exemptions include vital artists and staff beyond performers and musicians – specifically stage management, directors, designers, choreographers and other creatives?
  • If you have not secured common agreement in all 19 countries, what steps are being taken to harmonise agreement?
  • There continues to be a singular focus on live entertainment. As critical as this is, what progress has been made on equivalent visa and work permit waiver programmes for on TV, film, audio, new media, and other recorded work?

As Equity has said throughout the Brexit process, we stand ready to advise and assist in bilateral and EU wide negotiations over the future of British artists working in Europe. Through the International Federation of Actors, of which I am a Vice President, we have a unique ability to lobby governments across the EU through our sister trade unions. To date, the government has not made use of this. Again, we invite you to meet with us to ensure one voice for the good of our performing arts and entertainment industries.

If answers are not forthcoming on the above, you can expect them to be raised in the House of Commons at the earliest opportunity.


Yours sincerely,

Paul W Fleming
General Secretary, Equity