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UK government to temporarily relax post-Brexit rules for some music truckers

The new laws have forced major gig cancellations in recent weeks

By Joe Goggins

Crowd at a live show, via Pexels
(Photo: Pexels)

The British government has agreed to temporarily relax post-Brexit rules for specified music truckers following mounting reports of serious delays for British bands touring on the continent.

Last week, White Lies were forced to cancel the opening night of an extensive European tour because the lorry carrying their gear was caught up in Brexit-induced red tape on its way out of England. Since January of 2021, when new border rules on haulage officially came into force, truckers are obliged by law to return to whichever side of the UK-EU divide that their business is based in after a maximum of three stops in the opposite market.

Unsurprisingly, this ruling poses a logistical nightmare for British bands looking to traverse the European mainland on tour. Now, though, a temporary measure to loosen the so-called ‘cabotage’ rules means that artists can switch more freely between EU and UK operating licenses to smooth passage between markets. Per Billboard, a government spokesperson said: “This is a temporary exceptional measure which will ensure that our world-leading creative and cultural artists can continue to tour widely.”

The British government continues to have no clear plan in place for the long-term where this issue is concerned. Speaking to Rolling Stone UK earlier this week, White Lies drummer Jack Lawrence-Brown shed light on the port chaos that forced them to nix their tour opener. “To have it cancelled – through really no fault of their own and no fault of our own, either – is just [a result of], in my opinion, an appallingly run government system in the UK,” he said, as the band’s gear finally caught up with them in Frankfurt. “I’m sure it’s not what the people who voted for Brexit imagined it would be.

Without naming them, Lawrence-Brown said that another arena-level band had called off a Paris show for similar bureaucratic reasons on the same night.“They’re running a much bigger show than we are,” he explained. “They had several trucks, and I think almost all of them made it over but one truck didn’t.”

White Lies, who had a UK number one album in 2009 with ‘To Lose My Life…’, have been touring the EU for over a decade. Lawrence-Brown had a grim assessment for bands looking to follow in their footsteps. “I think the great tragedy of Brexit – in terms of the arts and music – will be that a lot of the new acts just won’t have the finance to do a show in Europe.”

Citing the “complex and daunting” documentation now required where freedom of movement was once taken for granted, he continued: “If you’re a new band [or] DIY, the thought of having to fill it out and get that stamped… it’s expensive and tricky. A lot of bands will probably look at what’s required of them just to go and play to a couple of hundred people in the Netherlands or something and go, ‘Well, that’s not really worth my time’. But that would be a great shame.”