European Tour for UK Groups Is Now A Highway To Brexit Hell


LONDON – British rock band Two Door Cinema Club When they started performing in Europe a decade ago, the three members of the band would hop in a van, throw their instruments in the back, and drive from their then-hometowns of Belfast, Northern Ireland, to sweaty clubs in Amsterdam, Berlin, and Paris.

“We’ve done this hundreds of times,” the band’s bassist Kevin Baird said over the phone recently. “Everything happened at once,” he added.

Now, the Two Door Cinema Club – or any British theater – touring Europe is not that easy. Last Friday, the band made headlines Cruïlla music festival in Barcelona, ​​Spainplays to an audience of 25,000 screaming fans. But due to the UK leaving the European Union in 2020, known as Brexit, the group spent weeks applying for visas and immersing themselves in complex new rules for shipping and exporting goods like T-shirts.

The visa and travel to apply for them in the UK cost £7,500, about $10,400 for the band, two extra musicians and a crew of eight, Baird said. The new rules mean that a British tour van carrying sound and lighting equipment or merchandise can only make three stops across mainland Europe before returning home.

“He proved to be a headache when he’s never had a headache before,” Baird said. “If we were a starting group, we wouldn’t be doing this,” he added.

For much of this year, Brexit has been a bigger topic of discussion in the British music industry than the coronavirus pandemic. Since January 1, When a trade agreement between the UK and the European Union goes into effect, hundreds of British musicians – including Dua Lipa and radio head – they complained that the deal made touring the continent more costly for stadium events and nearly impossible for new bands.

The new rules are an “imminent disaster” for young musicians. Elton John wrote on Instagram in June. “This is about whether one of the UK’s most successful industries, valued at £111 billion a year, will thrive and contribute greatly to both our cultural and economic wealth, or whether it will be allowed to collapse and burn,” he added.

Even musicians who supported Brexit complained. Bruce Dickinson, lead singer of Iron Maiden A TV interviewer said in June While he welcomed the UK’s departure from the European Union, he found the new rules unreasonable. Then he addressed the British government: “Act together,” he said.

Anger over the regulations has led to a blame game between the UK government and the European Union over which side is responsible for the new hurdles and who has made appropriate offers while the trade deal is negotiated.

Whoever was responsible, the affair became an embarrassment to the British government. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his government was working “properly” on the issue. “We have to fix this,” he said He told lawmakers in March.

But so far there hasn’t been enough progress to appease the musicians. In June, the UK agreed to new trade agreements that the government said would allow musicians to tour easily in Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. “Oh, those infamous tours of mountainous Liechtenstein with the complete lack of airport”, Simone Marie of Primal Scream group was met with disdain. wrote on Twitter.

“We’re all getting more and more hopeless,” said Annabella Coldrick, executive director of Music Executives Forum, a trade organization. Helped launch in June Let the Music Move, a campaign for the government to reimburse artists for the new extra costs and renegotiate tour rules.

“The issues are just starting to become clear,” Coldrick said, as the coronavirus pandemic subsides and groups begin booking tours. He added that the biggest disagreement is the arrangement where pickup trucks and trucks can only stop three times before returning to the UK.

A few British music shipping companies have moved some of their operations to Ireland to circumvent the rules. But Coldrick said this is not a viable solution: Trucks will also have to make longer journeys to get the tapes, which will increase costs. He said it looked like a bad outcome for Britain too, as the country was losing companies and workers.

The group’s manager, Colin Schaverien, said that the main issue for Two Door Cinema Club is the visa. In June, a member of the group was denied a visa due to a technical issue with his job title, so he had to reapply. Another Belfast-based group member was told they needed to fly to Scotland for a visa appointment.

Despite the band’s troubles before they left for Spain, Two Door Cinema Club’s show last Friday went smoothly.

“Everything we worried about didn’t come true,” bassist Baird said. The group’s equipment went through customs in 25 minutes on the British side while traveling in a truck from London; Checks at the border in France lasted only 10. The group, whose members came to Barcelona by plane, did not have any problems at the airport.

Baird said he was so excited that the group was going to play a show after sitting at home for months during the coronavirus pandemic, and they took selfies of every moment.

Marc Loan, 36, who was in the audience, said the crowd was equally excited. “I was careful not to drink too much so I didn’t have to miss anything,” he added.

“It was great,” Baird said of the night.

Baird added that Brexit was the last thing on her mind during the concert, but she lifted her head the next day when the band and crew went to the airport to fly home. Members of the group holding Irish passports, which anyone born in Northern Ireland can have as much as a British passport, took a whirlwind of passport control; Only those with British passports stayed in the queue for an hour.

The group enjoyed the trip, but Baird was concerned about how a more complex program would work. “We are all aware that this is a one-off concert,” he said. “Our concern is when next year we will be playing in three different countries in three days. I hope it will be much more difficult.”


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