The potential impact of Brexit on leisure-time music groups

For most leisure-time music groups the immediate impact of Brexit, with or without a deal, will be minimal. 1 Jan 2021 is not a cliff edge event that will dramatically change their circumstances overnight. 

However, Brexit will impact some activities for some groups over the course of 2021. Unfortunately, there is not a great deal of clarity about what this impact might be and what groups might need to do. This resource covers areas of potential impact that groups should be aware of – and tries to give information where we have it. We will of course update this as we know more. 

Visa for professional musicians from the EU 

As of 1 Jan 2021, professional musicians from EU countries will need a visa to work in the UK. There are various routes to getting a visa. The one most likely to work for groups engaging EU professionals is a Permitted Paid Engagement visa. 

This allows a professional musician to come to the UK to perform professionally. 

They must:

  • have a specific pre-arranged paid engagement of work 
  • be invited here by a UK-based organisation or client.

The visa lasts for one month and the applicant must not take work other than the permitted pre-arranged paid engagement.

The artists themselves will have to apply - it costs £93 and your group will have to provide evidence of your offer to of a paid engagement. 

Find out more on the on the UK government's website about the Permitted Paid Engagement visa, and use their online tool to find out which nationalities might need one. 

Social security payments: with a no deal Brexit, EU musicians working in the UK would have to double pay social security in their country of residence and in the UK. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) can only start to work on bilateral discussions with individual countries and finding a solution to this once there is clarity about whether there is a deal or no deal. DCMS and HMRC are aware this is important and will sort it out as soon as they can. We will keep you updated as we find out more. 

VAT: DCMS are aware that there is nothing about VAT on the guidance at the moment; this is because they do not have full information themselves; they are working to add guidance as soon as they can.

Data transfer

At the moment, all EU countries are governed by the same data laws. That means transferring data is simple, as all data is subject to the same laws. From 1 January the UK will no longer be subject to these EU laws. This means if you do transfer personal data to the EU, you might need extra clauses in contracts and data agreements establishing how the data will be treated. 

However, whether or not there is a deal, a separate ‘data adequacy agreement’ needs to be put in place. DCMS seem confident this will be easily agreed with EU, as GDPR is already enshrined in UK law. However, this is waiting on an announcement about whether there will or will not be a deal. 

We will update groups once we have more concrete information, but if in the new year you need to send personal data to an organisation based in the EU, get in touch with us and we can help. 

Touring abroad and welcoming groups from abroad

Visas: Going on a tour with a leisure-time group doing unpaid performances would be classed as a tourist activity. For this purpose, you won’t need a visa to visit any Schengen area countries (download this PDF on the Schengen area from the European Commission) for up to 90 days within any 180-day period. The same would apply for any group coming to the UK – if the group and its members are not paid to perform, e.g. if you invite a choir from Germany to perform with you at your summer concert, then there is no visa requirement.

Equipment: If you are travelling to Europe with instruments you will need something called carnets. These are documents that list the instruments (and other equipment) you are taking into the EU. The purpose of this is so that it can then be checked that you also return with X instruments – it is a way of making sure you are not trading without paying the taxes that would come with that.

You may also need CITES certificates – these are certificates for instruments which contain certain protected materials, such as ivory or some types of wood. The certificates allow you to move these instruments from one country to the next where you would otherwise be banned. There are only certain CITES certified ports to come in to, which includes some airports.

Tour operators will be on top of this and would remove a lot of hassle. But if you are not using a tour operator you can arrange carnets and CITES certificates on your own – there is a cost, upwards of £300 for a year. We will look to provide more information on this when we can.

Delays and timelines

If you are travelling to or from the EU with instruments and people, you will want to factor in longer timelines than before. Especially until there are fully working new systems in place at borders, we are being warned of potential long delays (e.g. checking of carnets!). This may have an impact on your programming and also the length of your stay abroad, or how you organise a visit by a group from the EU to you.

You should also discuss this with any professional musicians from the EU you are planning to engage – perhaps they will need to arrive the night before, rather than on the day of the performance.

Northern Ireland

To add to all the lack of clarity, nobody seems to know what the movement of people or goods to and from Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK will entail from 1 January 2021. So if you are planning anything involving such movement, be prepared to allow much more time and admin.

We hope you find this Making Music resource useful. If you have any comments or suggestions about the guidance please contact us. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the content of this guidance is accurate and up to date, Making Music do not warrant, nor accept any liability or responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the content, or for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in it.