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Brexiteer Roger Daltrey attempts to justify being against what he wished for

By | Published on Friday 22 January 2021

Roger Daltrey

The Who’s Roger Daltrey has responded to the criticism he has received this week after he signed a letter to the UK government calling for action on the various issues facing British musicians when touring in the EU post-Brexit. Daltrey, an outspoken supporter of the Brexit adventure, previously dismissed warnings that leaving the EU would make touring more difficult.

In an interview with Sky News in 2019, Daltrey reacted angrily to a question about how Brexit might affect musicians. “What’s it got to do with the rock business?” he asked. At the suggestion it might make touring in Europe more difficult, he spat: “Oh dear, as if we didn’t tour in Europe before the fucking EU”. He then suggested that being an EU member was like being governed by the mafia.

Given those comments, many expressed confusion and derision when Daltrey’s name appeared on an open letter to the government, alongside a plethora of other artists and industry reps, all dismayed at the issues now facing touring artists as a result of Brexit.

When the last minute post-Brexit UK/EU trade deal was published last month it quickly became apparent that there was no provision in it ensuring visa-free touring for British artists in the EU, or EU artists in the UK. That was despite previous assurances from ministers and officials that, providing a trade deal was agreed, musicians would not face any new bureaucracy when touring Europe once the UK was no longer a member of the EU.

With no provision for visa-free touring in the deal, UK musicians must now comply with the rules of each individual EU country when touring there. In some of those countries, that means musicians and crew will need to get travel permits and/or equipment carnets. It’s feared that the cost and hassle of doing so will make some European tours unviable. To that end, the music community has been calling on UK ministers to urgently negotiate a bespoke deal with the EU to allow paperwork-free touring.

In a statement to Sky News yesterday, Daltrey insisted: “I have not changed my opinion on the EU. I’m glad to be free of Brussels, not Europe. I would have preferred reform [of the EU], which was asked for by us before the referendum and was turned down by the then president of the EU”.

“I do think our government should have made the easing of restrictions for musicians and actors a higher priority”, he continued. “Every tour, individual actors and musicians should be treated as any other ‘goods’ at the point of entry to the EU with one set of paperwork. Switzerland has borders with five EU countries, and trade is electronically frictionless. Why not us?”

By “electronically frictionless”, Daltrey might mean that Switzerland – a non-EU member right in the middle of the EU – introduced digital carnets in 2019. That did make things easier. But not as easy as it was touring the rest of the Europe while the UK was an EU member.

If there was one set of paperwork for musicians that applied to the whole EU, that would be better than the current situation. Although it would still be a backwards step compared to what went before.

Either way, with the UK choosing to give up any control over the way the EU works, there was always the risk that Brexit would create new bureaucracy that would set back a modern UK touring business that had been built to specifically benefit from EU freedoms.

Because, while Daltrey was technically right to say “as if we didn’t tour in Europe before the fucking EU”, he then (and seemingly still now) didn’t take into account how the freedom of movement enabled by EU membership had changed the live music industry over the last 40 years.