Musicians hit back at Oliver Dowden’s “utterly pathetic” boast of Brexit touring breakthrough


A number of musicians have taken to social media to criticise Oliver Dowden’s recent boast that the UK government has achieved a Brexit touring breakthrough.

The government’s failure to negotiate visa-free travel and Europe-wide work permits for musicians and crew post-Brexit has long been a topic of discussion.

This fiasco has sparked fears that artists will face huge costs to future live music tours of the continent which could create a glass ceiling that prevents rising and developing artists from being able to afford to do so.


Yesterday (June 4), the culture secretary announced yesterday that after “an ambitious approach” to negotiations, musicians, performers and support crews will now be able to tour Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein following a new trade deal.

“We’ve always taken an ambitious approach in negotiations on touring artists, including in my meeting with @AbidRaja last month,” Dowden tweeted. “Delighted that our new trade deal with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein will allow musicians, performers and support crews to tour easily there.”

His tweet was met with a lot of ridicule by artists, crew members and other members of the music industry, many of whom mocked Dowden’s comment about the government’s ambitious approach in negations.

Broadcaster Gavin Esler tweeted: “Liechtenstein. Population 38,000. Iceland 370,000. Norway 5 million. “An ambitious approach”. Folks: the U.K. government thinks we are all idiots. At some point it might be good to prove them wrong.”

Photographer Kevin Cummins also focused on population and market size, writing: “The Isle of Wight festival capacity is 50K. The population of Liechtenstein is just over 38K. Clearly a huge audience awaits the influx of British musicians and actors.”


“Iceland’s population is roughly the same as Wigan. Liechtenstein has a similar number of residents as Wilmslow (in Cheshire),” The Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess tweeted, adding: “If it wasn’t tragic it would be funny.”

Suede bassist Mat Osman added: “Ah yes. The classic Norway/Iceland/Liechtenstein tour. Utterly pathetic.”

You can see more responses to Dowden’s comments below:

Back in February, Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage was criticised for the government’s lack of action in failing to renegotiate terms for future touring with EU member states or for measuring the potential damage that Brexit could have on the UK’s £111billion cultural industries or £5.2billion music industry.

The government was also accused of treating the sector like “an afterthought” in Brexit negotiations compared to the £1.2billion fishing industry.

Responding to the criticisms at the time, a government spokesperson from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport claimed that they “had always been clear that the end of freedom of movement would have implications for professional mobility”.

A controversial issue throughout the continent, European festival promoters have said that they could be likely to book fewer UK acts as a result of Brexit, while figures from the UK music industry have expressed concern that the impact of the deal on musicians who might not be able to tour Europe could also potentially prevent them from acquiring a visa to play in the United States.

Bookers in Europe have told NME that “the effort should come from the UK” to overcome this.

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