The potential impact of Brexit on leisure-time music groups

For most of our groups the immediate impact of Brexit and the new trade agreement with the EU will be minimal. 

However, it will impact some activities for some groups over the course of 2021. We do now have some clarity in certain areas, but murkiness remains in others. This resource covers areas of potential impact that groups should be aware of – and tries to give information where we have it.

If your group is facing a challenge in relation to one of these areas, or any other Brexit related issue, please get in touch. We will update this page as we get more information.

We would like to thank the Association of British Orchestra (ABO) who have helped pull much of this information together.

Page updated:

  • 11 Feb 2021 
  • 31 August (EORI numbers)
  • 6 May 2022 (Tarif info added to EORI section. Insurance section added)

Visa for professional musicians from the EU 

Professional musicians from EEA countries do not necessarily need a visa to work in the UK.

An invited expert in their profession taking part in arts or entertainment activities can stay in the UK for up to 1 month without a visa. This includes being paid by a UK-based organisation for performing.

They will be expected to provide certain information when they arrive in the UK:

  • a current passport valid for the time they intend to stay in the UK
  • a formal invitation from the UK-based organisation paying them
  • proof that the paid engagement relates to their expertise, qualifications and main job in their home country
  • arranged accommodation for their stay
  • evidence they will leave at the end of stay (e.g. booked flight)
  • evidence they can support themselves during the stay.

However, a potential issue has been flagged; musicians attempting to enter the UK on a frequent basis under the above ‘no visa’ terms could be refused entry at the border. There is no clear information to say this will definitely be the case – but it is a possibility. We don’t think this is a big risk for groups. Refusal of entry is likely to be individuals who are coming to work in the UK frequently and being engaged by the same organisation, or a small number of organisations. Groups that want to book EU musicians might want to check they do not fall into this category.  The ABO are working to get clarity on this issue – and we will keep this page updated as we find out more.

Use the Government tool for finding out if a visa is required

Social security payments: workers from EEA countries working in the UK have to either pay social security payments (national insurance in the UK) in the EEA or the UK.

As a general rule if the person is working in the UK on a temporary basis they can pay social security payments in the EEA – and not the UK. They will most likely need a certificate or document from the social security institution in the relevant EEA country.

More information can be found on the Government website.

Trade with the EU

Economic Operators Registration and Identification number (EORI number)

An EORI number is a HMRC issued number that you need if you want to move goods between:

  • Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) or the Isle of Man, and any other country (including the EU)
  • Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • Great Britain and the Channel Islands
  • Northern Ireland and countries outside the EU

You don't need one to move goods between Northern Ireland and the EU. Find out more about EORI numbers on the HMRC website.

Groups are being asked for this in relation to hiring / buying sheet music from the EU – but it could apply to any goods being moved. The good news is if you are asked to provide an EORI number it is fairly easy to get one (see below). 

Tarif number: you may also need a HS code to go on the paperwork (short for Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System.)

For sheet music the code is: 49040000

You can use the European customs portal to find other HS codes.

How to get an EORI number

You need a Government Gateway ID. If you are registered with HMRC for Gift Aid you will already have one of these. If you don’t have one – you can set one up easily online and apply for an EORI number in one process.

  • Use the link on this HMRC page to apply for an EORI number.
  • When it asks you to login using your Gateway ID click ‘create credentials’ and follow the online process - once you have created the Gateway ID it will take you straight to the EORI number process (see below).

About Government Gateway IDs: A Government Gateway ID is just a login to HMRC’s online services: 

  • You just need an email address to set one up, and you get your ID immediately
  • Creating an ID to get an EORI does not mean you are creating an online HMRC account for your group – it can be used just in relation to the EORI. However if in the future you do want to use HMRC online services (e.g. to claim Gift Aid) you can use the ID to register your organisation for these services.

Applying for an EORI number: If your organisation has a unique Tax reference Number (UTR) or is VAT registered you can get an EORI number more or less immediately online. Apply online using your Gateway ID and UTR or VAT number and your EORI will be generated for you.  

As small charities, many of our groups won’t have a UTR or VAT number – but you can still get a EORI number:

  • Apply online using your Gateway ID
  • There are options to say you are a charity / not for profit and to confirm that you don’t have a UTR or VAT number.
  • You will then reach the online ‘Application for an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number - Imports form’. This is pretty simple to complete. You will need:
    • Individual contact’s details
    • Name of organisation
    • Type of organisation (e.g. registered charity, not for profit)
    • Registered charity number (if applicable)

You then submit the form online. You will not get an EORI immediately as HMRC need to process the application. They have been doing these pretty quickly so far – within a day or so – and you will then have your EORI number.


If you are trading goods or services between the UK and EU the VAT rules have changed. We don’t think this will impact members activities, if it does the fundamental thing to remember is to treat VAT and trade with the EU like you would for anywhere else in the world.  If you are having any problems in relation to VAT and the EU please contact us.

Data transfer

As part of the Brexit trade deal restrictions on transferring data between the UK and EEA countries were delayed with a view to adequacy agreements being reached. 

An adequacy agreement was agreed between the UK and EU in June 2021.

This means that, assuming organisations are compliant with UK data protection regulations, data can be transferred between the UK and EEA without the need to change their data protection practices.

Groups sending data to non EEA countries: previously UK organisations were covered by EU rules for sending data to non-EU countries. Now that the UK has left the EU these rules don’t apply. However, nothing has really changed and as long as you were compliant with GDPR rules before Brexit you can continue to transfer data to non-EU countries as you did before.

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: The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has published guidance for musical artists working in the EU, section three covers equipment including for personal use. 

It states that you need to check the custom requirements for each country you are visiting. However, it goes onto say that an option for ‘accompanied’ instruments (“carried or taken by an individual in their personal baggage, or a vehicle, which travel with the individual throughout their journey”) is to is t use a temporary admission procedure in the country you are visiting which means there is no duty to pay or additional paperwork. You can do this by going through the green or ‘nothing to declare’ channel, or by making an oral declaration for the equipment to a Border Official. 

Instruments travelling 'unaccompanied' (“moved as freight by a haulier and/or transport operator where the individual is not present”) will need a carnet. This is also the situation if you are traveling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland or through Northern Ireland and onward to the Republic of Ireland. the DCMS guidance for musical artists working in the EU has more information on carnets. 

Professional musicians travelling to the UK: the current understanding is that professional musicians entering the UK for work travelling with their own portable equipment also do not need a carnet. The ABO are working to get confirmation of this from HMRC. 

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. The certificate has to be stamped on either side of the border when travelling between the UK and EU and between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. There are only certain CITES certified ports to come in to, which includes some airports and Eurotunnel, but does not include Eurostar.

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.

Insurance: if you have an insurance policy with Making Music it does provide some Europe and Worldwide cover for the group’s activities. The geographical scope varies depending on the type of cover. Find out more in our insurance FAQs.

Making Music insurance policies do not include travel and health insurance cover for members on tour.

Previously when traveling in the EU the UK European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) provided healthcare cover. This has been withdrawn. However:

  • If you have a (EHIC) it will be valid until the expiry date on the card.
  • The UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) is a new scheme that offers state healthcare in Europe at a reduced cost or sometimes for free

Find out more:

You might also want to suggest to members they consider their own travel insurance policies for the tour.

Delays and timelines

If you are travelling between the UK and the EU, or between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, with instruments and people, you will want to factor in longer timelines than before. Even with the need for carnets removed, we are being warned of potential long delays.

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.


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.