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Culture sector demands action on cross-border problems

The UK government is running out of time to fix the massive problems Brexit has created for cooperation and touring between the UK and EU, say many of the country’s largest cultural organisations.

The Manchester International Festival, Hope Mill Theatre and Opera North are among 300 organisations that have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister criticising the apparent lack of progress in repairing links broken by Brexit on January 1, and expressing “deep frustration”, despite promises to address the problems.

Like traders and companies in general business, cultural organisations have been beset by new rules and regulations concerning trade between the EU and its former member state. Brexit brought new customs rules, increased border delays, bureaucracy and frustration to companies hoping to work with European companies or to tour in European member states.

“We are extremely concerned by the lack of progress over the last three months to unravel the mountain of costly red tape that faces the creative industries,” the letter says.

Companies hoping to work in the EU now face large financial bills as well as extensive application procedures and forms to get into Europe even for short periods – decimating EU touring and opportunities for UK-based performers.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said in March the government was working at full speed on the problems, which also hit thousands of small businesses. Touring this year is already under threat simply from the timing of such work: “You [the PM] have a limited window of opportunity to resolve this crisis threatening our industry,” says the letter.

The complaint was organised by the Incorporated Society of Musicians, whose members have most to lose from an inability to quickly organise foreign music tours.

The letter warns that it won’t be enough for the goverment to simply offer more guidance about border requirements and the easiest way to avoid delays; what is needed is “frictionless mobility” - in other words, the removal of much of the bureaucracy and red tape currently affecting thousands of companies trading between Britain and the EU every day.

The ISM’s letter proposes four points to “guarantee the survival of the sector”: a custom-made visa-waiver agreement with the EU for the creative sector; agreements between the UK and any member states that currently offer no work permit exemptions for cultural work; emergency funding to support the extra costs of touring, and reducing the impact of new haulage rules, which preventing many UK companies from organising European tours.

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