Theatre through Brexit: Europe's curtain call

Jess Bradbury reports on the latest blow to British Theatre

Jess Bradbury
3rd March 2021
The National Theatre has announced that in light of Brexit, they will no longer be able to tour Europe due to uncertainty surrounding work permits.

Shows including The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time have had their European tours shelved, with the theatre company stating “we are not able to confirm any touring commitments in Europe as a result of Brexit legislation”. It comes after a year of no live performances due to the impact of Covid-19 and multiple national lockdowns. The negotiations of Brexit legislation led to no agreement for touring performers in the trade deal struck back in December, with the UK and EU blaming each other for the result. For performers, including the wider art industry, it now means they need to obtain a work permit before they are able to move around different European countries. A National Theatre spokesperson has said “we hope that in future we’ll return to tour in Europe. However, that will not be possible until we have further clarity” on contributions to social security and potential additional costs to work visas.

The National Theatre’s concerns have been echoed through those who spoke at a House of Commons Culture select committee meeting. Chairman of the committee Julian Knight MP said that the arts industry had effectively “had to endure a no-deal Brexit” despite being a world-leading part of the UK economy. 

Julian Knight MP said that the arts industry had effectively “had to endure a no-deal Brexit”

An open letter has also been sent to the government which has been signed by over one hundred performers who are members of the Equity union. The signatures on the letter include that of Sir Ian McKellan, Sir Patrick Stewart and Dame Julie Walters in which they urge Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to renegotiate the terms of performers working in the EU. The letter stated that performers and art industry professionals have a strong desire to work in Europe once lockdown restrictions have lifted, but that at the moment “the current Brexit deal is a towering hurdle to that” when there is no visa-free work. Alastair Jones, a senior civil servant in the DCMS, went on to tell the committee that the government planned to hold talks with individual EU member states about removing the mounting costs and barriers to performers “very shortly”.

The open letter went on to state that performers had already lost their work because of the cost involved with hiring British talent, with 31% of Equity members saying they have seen adverts for jobs taking only EU passport holder applications. They then go on to state that the result of Brexit has been a “disastrous blow” that “will hit those already struggling and marginalised groups the hardest”.

Regarding the National Theatre’s statement, a government spokesperson has replied saying: “Touring in Europe is currently not possible due to Covid-19 and EU member states have not set out plans for when it will be. We are working urgently with the UK’s creative industries to help ensure they can work confidently in Europe once touring can safely resume”.

Featured Image: Wikipedia

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AUTHOR: Jess Bradbury
English literature student with a passion for arts and culture. Professional waffler. Twitter/IG @jessbradburyx

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