The government has confirmed it is to end freedom of movement and introduce a points-based immigration system, with industry bodies branding the changes “devastating” for workers in the creative industries.
From January 1, 2021, all EU and non-EU citizens will be subject to the new system, which takes multiple factors into account when awarding visas, including salary and education.
The minimum salary threshold will be £25,600, however some workers with a job offer with a lower salary may still be awarded a visa if they meet other requirements.
Equity president Maureen Beattie said that the end of freedom of movement will have a “devastating” impact on the working lives of people in the creative industries.
She said: “The ability of all people working in the entertainment industry to move freely between the countries of the EU has been a vital part of the success the UK enjoys in Europe and throughout the world.
“The government’s own ministers have highlighted the importance of free movement for musicians in the EU. The very same concerns impact on our members – singers, dancers, stage managers, street performers, circus artists, models, choreographers, directors, designers; performers and creatives of every kind.”
The Creative Industries Federation said it is “worrying” that the government intends to bring the bill to parliament in the next two or three weeks “without the normal consultation period”.
A statement from CIF said: “Although it is theoretically ‘points-based’, the reality is that it will be impossible to accrue enough points with a salary below £25,600 (without a PhD) unless the role is on the shortage occupation list; a list which excludes many highly-valued creative professions.
“In our sector, high skill levels do not always equate to high salaries. There must be recognition of sector-specific means of assessment including auditions, work experience and portfolios.”
BECTU said the restrictions on incoming EU workers will have an impact on the ability of touring companies to visit the UK.
Freelance and research officer Tony Lennon said: “There is no provision whatsoever for self-employed workers to come in and if EU member states reciprocate by applying restrictions to UK workers, it’s going to be more costly and difficult to organise European tours for performances. Restricted movement of UK workers [would] add to the problems we already know about when moving scenery, props and equipment across the Channel after December this year.”
The Incorporated Society of Musicians said it was “deeply disappointed that free movement for musicians and other artists from the EU has been ruled out”.
It urged the UK government to reconsider its call for a two-year, multi-entry visa.
The Musicians’ Union also called for a special visa for musicians.
A statement said: “A lot of the work musicians do is speculative, for example to build their fanbases or write songs. Already, traditional visa models do not work for them, which is why we are calling for a Musicians’ Passport.
“UK musicians working in the EU urgently need a reciprocal touring visa that is free or cheap, admin light, and removes the need for carnets and other unnecessary red tape, so that they can start booking in work after December 2020.”