For U.K. Bands, Touring Europe Is Now a Highway to Brexit Hell

LONDON — When the British rock band Two Door Cinema Club started taking part in exhibits throughout Europe a decade in the past, the group’s three members would soar in a van, throw their devices within the again and drive from their then hometown, Belfast, Northern Ireland, to sweaty golf equipment in Amsterdam, Berlin, and Paris.

“We did that hundreds of times,” Kevin Baird, the group’s bassist, mentioned just lately by cellphone. “Everything was at a moment’s notice,” he added.

Now, it’s not so easy for Two Door Cinema Club — or any British act — to tour Europe. Last Friday, the band headlined the Cruïlla music festival in Barcelona, Spain, taking part in to an viewers of 25,000 screaming followers. But due to Britain’s 2020 departure from the European Union, known as Brexit, the band spent weeks beforehand making use of for visas and immersing themselves in difficult new guidelines round trucking and exporting merchandise like T-shirts.

Visas and journey inside Britain to apply for them value 7,500 kilos, about $10,400, for the band, two additional musicians, and an eight-person crew, Baird mentioned. New guidelines imply that a British tour van carrying audio and lighting gear, or merchandise, can solely make three stops in mainland Europe earlier than it should return dwelling.

“It’s proved a headache when there was never a headache before,” Baird mentioned. “If we were a band starting out, we wouldn’t have done it,” he added.

For a lot of this yr, Brexit has been an excellent greater speaking level in Britain’s music trade than the coronavirus pandemic. Since Jan. 1, when a trade deal between Britain and the European Union came into force, lots of of British musicians — together with Dua Lipa and Radiohead — have complained that the deal makes touring the continent extra pricey for stadium acts, and nearly unattainable for brand spanking new bands.

The new guidelines are “a looming catastrophe” for younger musicians, Elton John wrote on Instagram in June. “This is about whether one of the U.K.’s most successful industries, worth £111 billion a year, is allowed to prosper and contribute hugely to both our cultural and economic wealth, or crash and burn,” he added.

Even musicians who supported Brexit have complained. Bruce Dickinson, the lead singer of Iron Maiden, told a TV interviewer in June that, though he welcomed Britain’s departure from the European Union, he discovered the brand new guidelines unreasonable. He then addressed Britain’s authorities: “Get your act together,” he mentioned.

The furor over the laws has led to a blame recreation between Britain’s authorities and the European Union over which facet is accountable for the brand new limitations, and who made viable affords when negotiating the commerce deal.

Regardless of who’s accountable, the problem has turn out to be a humiliation for the British authorities. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has mentioned his authorities is working “flat out” on the problem. “We must fix this,” he told lawmakers in March.

Yet to this point, there hasn’t been sufficient progress to appease musicians. In June, Britain agreed to new commerce offers that the federal government mentioned would permit musicians to tour simply in Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. This was met with disdain: “Ah those infamous tours of mountainous Liechtenstein with its total lack of airport,” Simone Marie of the band Primal Scream wrote on Twitter.

“We’re all becoming increasingly despondent,” mentioned Annabella Coldrick, the chief govt of the Music Managers Forum, a commerce physique. In June, she helped launch Let the Music Move, a marketing campaign for the federal government to compensate artists for the brand new additional prices and renegotiate the tour guidelines.

“The problems are only just starting to become clear,” because the coronavirus pandemic eases and bands begin reserving excursions, Coldrick mentioned. The greatest sticking level was the regulation that vans and vans can solely cease thrice earlier than they need to return to Britain, she added.

Several British music trucking companies have already moved a few of their operations to Ireland to get across the guidelines. But Coldrick mentioned this was not a viable answer: Trucks would even have to make longer journeys to choose bands up, growing prices. It additionally appeared like a poor consequence for Britain, she mentioned, as a result of the nation was dropping firms and staff.

For Two Door Cinema Club, the principle subject was visas, mentioned Colin Schaverien, the band’s supervisor. In June, a member of the band’s crew was rejected for a visa on a technicality associated to his job title, so he had to reapply. Another band member, primarily based in Belfast, was advised they’d to fly to Scotland for a visa appointment.

Despite the band’s issues earlier than touring to Spain, Two Door Cinema Club’s present final Friday went off with out a hitch.

“All the things we were worried about didn’t materialize,” mentioned Baird, the bassist. The band’s gear, touring in a truck from London, cleared customs on the British facet in 25 minutes; checks on the border in France took solely 10. The band, whose members flew to Barcelona, had no issues on the airport.

Once in, the group was so excited to be taking part in a present after months sitting at dwelling throughout the coronavirus pandemic, they took selfies of each second, Baird mentioned.

The crowd was equally excited, mentioned Marc Loan, 36, a fan who was within the viewers. “I made sure I didn’t drink much, so I didn’t have to miss anything,” he added.

“It was amazing,” Baird mentioned of the night time.

Brexit was the very last thing on his thoughts throughout the gig, Baird added, nevertheless it reared its head the following day when the band and crew headed to the airport to fly dwelling. Members of the group with Irish passports, which everybody born in Northern Ireland can maintain in addition to a British one, breezed by passport management; these with British passports solely have been caught in line for an hour.

The band was happy with the journey however Baird was nervous about how a extra difficult schedule would work. “We’re all well aware this was a one off concert,” he mentioned. “What we’re apprehensive about is next year when we’re playing three different countries in three days. I expect that will be a lot harder.”

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