Visa-free touring possible in 17 EU countries post-Brexit, says Dowden

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Artists will be able to undertake some touring in at least 17 of the 27 European Union member states without needing visas or work permits, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has said.

New post-Brexit UK travel rules came into force at the beginning of the year and do not guarantee visa-free travel for musicians in the EU.

Mr Dowden told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee he had engaged with every EU country on the issue since January.

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He said he now understood that “some paid touring activities” were possible in 17 countries and that the picture was “much more positive” than initially thought.

There have been calls from across the music, theatre and performing arts industries for a cultural work permit deal to be reached between the Government and EU, with a petition on the issue securing more than 280,000 signatures.

Addressing the committee, Mr Dowden said: “The second thing we have done is undertake an extensive programme of engagement with EU member states.

“We have engaged with every member state and off the back of that we have got a much clearer picture about the extent of restrictions and it varies enormously between countries.

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“And I can tell you our current analysis is that (in) at least 17 out of the 27 member states some paid touring activities are possible without needing visas or work permits.

“So that is a much more positive picture than initially appeared to be the case.

“The next thing we are doing is making sure we effectively communicate that so there is a better understanding of how people can tour anyway in those countries without need for further change.”

Mr Dowden said he and culture minister Caroline Dinenage were involved in discussions with countries where there are “greater restrictions” to UK acts touring, and he would be speaking to his opposite number in Portugal on Monday.

“I must say overall there is a very constructive mood so far from other members states,” he said.

The Culture Secretary also said the privatisation of Channel 4 will be considered during a Government review of public service broadcasting.

Channel 4 was launched in 1982 as a publicly owned, largely commercially self-funded public service broadcaster with a remit to offer “high quality and distinctive programming”.

“I have set up a public service broadcasting review and I can tell you that I will be asking them to look into the future of Channel 4 next week,” Mr Dowden told the committee.

“I think there is a case for considering the best future operating model for Channel 4. That will be one of the things we would consider in legislation in the next session.

“We would also look at video on demand and whether there are further reforms that need to be taking place there.”

Asked whether they were looking at the privatisation of Channel 4, he replied: “That is one of the options that is under consideration, yes.”

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