SHARE
COPY LINK

MUSIC

BREXIT: Spain scraps work visa requirement for UK touring artists 

UK artists looking to perform in Spain will no longer need to complete the costly and complex work visa process required post-Brexit after Spain’s Cabinet agreed to waive the previous rules. 

BREXIT: Spain scraps work visa requirement for UK touring artists 
UK singer songwriter Dua Lipa along with all other British artists and their crews will be able to tour and perform in Spain without requiring work visas. Photo: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images/AFP

One of the downsides of Brexit for UK music lovers in Spain has been that British artists and bands can no longer go on tour in the country without having to first arrange third-country audiovisual work visas for their whole crews.

Most EU nations have signed bilateral agreements with the British government to alleviate the fallout of the UK leaving the bloc but unfortunately Spain, together with Croatia and Bulgaria, were until now the only three countries with no alternative arrangement in place.

As of November 14th that changes, as the Spanish Cabinet has followed the advice of Spain’s Association of Music promoters (APM) as well as their British counterparts LIVE and the Association for British Orchestras (ABO) to find a solution to the visa obstacle. 

As explained in the official state bulletin (BOE) dealing with the decree, British musicians, actors and other artists as well as other people who form part of the audiovisual sector will be able to carry out their work activities in Spain for 90 out of 180 days without requiring a work visa. 

“We are delighted that our hard work has paid off and the Spanish Government has agreed to lift the restrictive visa process for touring artists, ending the complicated and painful process of expensive visa applications,” Craig Stanley, Chair of the LIVE Touring Group said.

A whole host of people came together both here and in Spain to fix this situation and this shows what we can achieve as an industry when we work together.

The ruling is in fact good news for artists and production teams from all non-EU countries, not just the United Kingdom, as the waiving of the work visa requirement applies to all third-country nationals who work in the audiovisual sector.

The bureaucratic nightmare involved in performing in Spain post-Brexit recently became evident when two indie groups – Squid and Black Country – cancelled their performances in late October in Madrid, Barcelona and San Sebastián. 

According to the groups and organisers Primera Sound Tours, “bureaucratic problems derived from Brexit” were the reason for the cancellations, as each work visa for band members, road crew, technicians and other sound personnel would have cost €400, making their concerts financially unfeasible. 

Add to this the slow and complex bureaucracy that accompanies this visa process (Spain has famously lost several big Hollywood deals as a result) and it became fairly unappealing, especially for smaller bands that don’t have the manpower or resources.

“Until now, artists and their promoters have had to make applications for short-term visas entirely in Spanish, provide a host of itinerary details before having even been given the green light for the tour to go ahead – including accommodation and flight allocations – and give proof of applicant earnings of up to nearly £1,000 before ever having left the country,” UK live music trade body LIVE stated. 

“Costs were also prohibitive, amounting to over £10,000 for an orchestra to visit Spain for up to five days.

“Touring artists and their production teams were also required to wait for over a month for a decision, making long term scheduling – vital for successful international touring – impossible.”

The Spanish Cabinet’s ruling represents a boost for Spain and the UK’s live music industry, as the Iberian nation is the fifth largest live music market in the world.

For months, the music industry has been warning of visa problems that awaited UK bands performing in Europe. On the other hand, EU performers don’t generally require a visa to perform in the UK.

READ ALSO: Can Spain really become ‘Europe’s Hollywood’ as PM suggests?

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

SPAIN AND THE UK

Liz Truss: What does the new UK PM mean for Brits in Spain?

Following the announcement that Liz Truss will replace Boris Johnson as the UK’s new Prime Minister, political correspondent Conor Faulkner analyses what this could mean for Brexit and the 400,000 UK nationals who reside in Spain.

Liz Truss: What does the new UK PM mean for Brits in Spain?

On Monday September 5th, it was announced that members of UK’s Conservative party had finally elected a new leader and thus a new Prime Minister, after Boris Johnson was forced to resign at the start of the summer.

Beating rival Rishi Sunak with 57 percent of the vote, just 80,000 Conservative party members elected the former Foreign Secretary as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.

READ ALSO: ‘Iron weathercock’ – Europe reacts to Liz Truss becoming new UK PM

But what, if anything, does her election mean for Brexit and the 400,000 Britons living in Spain? 

Will she be a continuity politician or will she forge a new path (for better or worse) in British-European relations?

Truss the Remainer

During the 2016 EU referendum campaign, Liz Truss campaigned for Remain. “I don’t want my daughters to live in a world where they have to apply for a visa to work in Europe,” she famously said.

Having once been a member of the Liberal Democrats and decidedly more pro-European, Truss’s conversion to Euroscepticism came after she had voted Remain in the EU in the June 2016 referendum.

Did the much hallowed Brexit benefits become clear to her in the aftermath of the result? Possibly. Or, as Brexit became a litmus test of loyalty and Conservatism, did her position shift to fit the intra-party politics of her party?

Although one may hope that her former pro-European positions might mean a softening in UK-EU relations in the post-Johnson era, Truss’s dependence on the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative parliamentary party during her leadership campaign suggests she may be kneecapped in her ability to strike compromises with the EU.

Truss the Foreign Secretary

Owing to Truss’s tendency to be a bit of a political flip-flopper and change her positions at the whim of career progression, it is therefore quite difficult to predict her future behaviour with regards to Spain. We can, however, make some educated guesses based on her time as Foreign Secretary.

Going off her tenure in the Foreign Office, it seems Truss may view relations with Spain more positively than perhaps with other EU member states or the block as a whole.

In December 2021, Truss travelled to Madrid to meet with her then counterpart José Manuel Albares to build “closer economic, tech and security ties” with Spain, and to “support” the 400,000 Britons living in Spain. 

“We’re significant trading partners, with the UK as Spain’s biggest European investor,” she said, “and the UK as the top destination for Spanish investment. By boosting our trading ties even further, both Spain and every region and nation of the UK will benefit.”

Yet, Truss has also strongly hinted that she would be willing to overhaul Article 16 and put the Northern Ireland protocol at risk. If she is willing to jeopardise peace and potentially break international law to appease her political base in England, particularly within her own parliamentary party, one must wonder about the seriousness with which a few hundred thousand Brits up and down Spain’s costas will be taken. 

Reaction in Spain

Spain’s leading newspaper El País believes Truss will continue the populist strategy of Johnson. Truss was, even in her acceptance speech on Monday, loyal to her predecessor. 

She “promises citizens a rose-tinted future, without clarifying how she intends to achieve it”, the paper believes.

Sue Wilson, Chair of Bremain in Spain, told The Local that she expects Truss to “carry on with the policies of Johnson, and be led, presumably, by the same right-wing forces of the Conservative Party.

“I suspect that, as far as what affects British citizens in Spain, that continuity will simply mean we remain invisible and left to our own devices,” Wilson added.

“Britons in Spain have been left in bureaucratic limbo since the Brexit vote six years ago. Whether it be the ongoing confusion over driving licenses or renewing residency or getting new TIE cards, many Britons abroad have felt abandoned by the UK government.”

Wilson and other members of Bremain in Spain will take part in the National Rejoin March in London on Saturday September 10th to “deliver a warning to the new PM about the impact of Brexit on the spiralling cost of living crisis in the UK”,  to express a “clear and loud message” that “Brexit has failed” and to promote “Rejoin the EU” as a “mainstream” call to action.

“For six years now, Brits living in Europe have been dealing with fear, uncertainty and stress, thanks to Brexit. We have already lost important rights, and many are concerned that even those secured could be at risk. Truss plans to proceed with the Protocol Bill which threatens the legally binding international treaty that secured those limited rights. In the process, she seems determined to do further damage to UK/EU relations and our international reputation.”

Anne Hernández, head of Brexpats in Spain, told The Local Spain: “Our problem as Brits in Spain might be if she actually applies Article 16, meaning a no deal Brexit, and she has threatened that. Although I’m not sure how that might affect our rights.”

The overriding feeling among UK nationals in Spain about Truss in No. 10 is the feeling of trepidation that Hernández describes.

With its fourth leader in six years and the third to take the helm of Britain in the post-Brexit world, for Brits abroad Truss’ rise to Downing Street has prolonged that uncertainty. 

With her apparent willingness to simply tear up internationally binding agreements, many will worry if the situation in Spain will be taken back to square one.

One would hope that her previously positive interactions with the Spanish state could mean that she lends a hand in resolving some of these lingering administrative issues affecting Britons in Spain, but the propensity to change her politics when it suits her make this unpredictable, and her reliance on Eurosceptic forces within her party make it unlikely.

How about Gibraltar?

This unpredictability could be of particular concern for UK nationals in Gibraltar. After voting Remain by a whopping 96 percent, the tiny British territory was not included in the main Brexit deal that came into effect from January 2021, and complicated multilateral negotiations between Gibraltar, London, Madrid and Brussels have rumbled on without resolution. 

Truss’ rhetoric on Gibraltar during her tenure as Foreign Secretary was as combative as her anti-EU talking points during the Tory leadership campaign, continuing the us-against-them language: “We will continue to defend the sovereignty of Gibraltar.”

SHOW COMMENTS