Thom Yorke calls the UK Government “spineless fucks” over its reported rejection of visa-free touring

The decision could make EU tours for UK artists much harder.

UK musicians have expressed their anger at the news that the government has reportedly rejected a “visa-free” touring deal, as part of Brexit negotiations.

On 9 January, it was reported that the UK government turned down a deal from the EU that would have allowed musicians to enter the union’s countries without a visa. Since then, a Government spokesperson has told NME that the reports are “incorrect and misleading speculation from anonymous EU sources” and that “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.”

The agreed post-Brexit trade deal with the EU does allow workers from some professions to travel in the union without a visa – but not musicians, meaning the cost of tours to Europe for UK musicians will skyrocket.


According to the Independent, the proposal, which would exempt performers from needing a visa to enter countries in the EU for trips under 90 days, was turned down by the government. The UK is reported to have turned down the offer because they do not want to give the same freedoms to EU artists visiting the UK for long periods of time.

In response to this report, many artists have shared their despair and anger at the decision.

Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke called the government “spineless fucks” over the decision.

Portishead instrumentalist Geoff Barrow launched the #BorisKilledMusic hashtag to highlight the impact of the reported decision.



Franz Ferdinand bassist Bob Hardy wrote: “As much as I hate referring to him as ‘Boris’, which only helps him to maintain his carefully crafted ‘cheeky scamp’ persona, getting #boriskilledmusic trending is worth it.”

Barry Burns, musician in post-rock band Mogwai and owner of Berlin Venue Das Gift, shared a photo of Boris Johnson using a capo incorrectly along with the hashtag. A speech bubble from the Prime Minister’s mouth reads simply “fuck music.”

Outside of Twitter, the Musician’s Union has also expressed its concern over the reports. General Secretary Horcace Trubridge said: “With the British music business having been devastated by COVID-19 and with no end in sight to the black hole of cancelled concerts, tours, festivals and regular gigs that is the very bedrock of our world-class industry, the news, if true, that our own elected representatives chose to turn down such an offer is nigh-on unbelievable. Ever since the result of the referendum in 2016, the MU has campaigned and lobbied for a Musicians’ Passport that would allow our members and their support crew to make a successful living across Europe.”

Horace also expressed concern at how the blame has been shifted between the UK and Brussels, with the Independent report and the official government statement seeming to contradict each other: “The Union is demanding that the Culture Minister urgently confirms one way or another whether it was the UK Government that blocked the deal which would have granted UK musicians easy access to EU states for touring. As it is, touring in EU states for UK musicians is going to require costly admin and time-consuming bureaucracy.”

A petition to seek visa-free touring in the UK has now reached over 245,000 signatures. You can add your name here.

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