Michel Barnier joins Elton John’s attack on Boris Johnson and Lord Frost’s Brexit strategy
Brexit: It is in UK's 'best interest to behave' says Barnier
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The pop legend has previously warned of a “looming catastrophe” facing the UK music industry because of new travel restrictions on touring in the EU. Mr Barnier, the EU’s former Brexit negotiator, has today held talks with the icon, claiming touring musicians could have been freed from the red tape by Downing Street. The Frenchman said: “Very happy to meet and discuss today with Elton John, who despite Brexit, is fighting for free movement and visa-free arrangements for artists.
“Citizens, artists and students are the first to lose out from Brexit.
“It didn’t have to be this way.”
The pair’s meeting comes after Brexit minister Lord Frost last week hit back at Sir Elton, saying the musician had managed to become successful before the UK joined the EU.
Lord Frost insisted the pop legend didn’t need the bloc to become a world-leading artist.
He said: “I can’t help noticing that he had his first hits before the UK even became a member of the European Union.”
The row sprung up after the singer gave an interview criticising the Government’s approach to Brexit and touring musicians and performers.
Sir Elton said: “I’m livid about what the Government did when Brexit happened.
“They made no provision for the entertainment business, and not just for musicians, actors and film directors, but for the crews, the dancers, the people who earn a living by going to Europe.
“We’ve been talking to Lord Strasburger about it, and we’ve been talking to Lord Frost, but we didn’t really get anywhere with him.
“It’s a nightmare to young people just starting a career, it’s crucifying.”
Asked why he believes he met such resistance in those talks, the singer replied: “The Government are philistines.
“We’ve got used to governments – especially the British Government – just telling us lies every day, and I don’t feel ok with that.”
Lord Frost has said it would be “extremely helpful” if musicians and music industry representatives could “use their relationships” within the EU “to encourage those governments to be less restrictive”.
The Brexit minister told MPs: “I said that to Elton John and I will say it to others.
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“We need that sort of help and support, and I’m convinced it would make a big difference to improve the situation.”
The Government has previously said its attempts to secure better conditions for touring musicians during the Brexit trade talks were rejected by the EU.
There are not currently different rules in place in different EU countries for bands and artists looking to ply their trade in the bloc.
In December, a Government spokeswoman said: “Short-term visitors to the EU can continue to join business meetings, receive training, and attend sporting and cultural events, amongst other permitted activities, without requiring a visa.
“Some member states may allow other types of business travel visa-free, so people should check the rules of the country they are travelling to.”
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She added: “The UK pushed for a more ambitious agreement with the EU on the temporary movement of business travellers, which would have covered musicians and others, but our proposals were rejected by the EU.
“We recognise that there could be some additional processes for those working in creative industries, but we have ensured that the visa application processes for longer-term business travel will be transparent to provide certainty and clarity.”
Brussels has previously claimed it put forward proposals during the Brexit negotiations, but they were refused by the Government’s team.
But No10 say this offer is too close to replicating the bloc’s free movement principles.
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