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Elton John says post-Brexit touring regulations are “crushing” young artists

"As an artist, you learn your craft by playing live"

By Patrick Clarke

Elton John press photograph
Elton John has been a longstanding critic of the government's Brexit deal (Photo: Gregg Kemp)

Elton John has criticised the impact of Brexit on up-and-coming musicians, arguing that his own career would have taken a different route without the opportunities of European touring

“It would have been totally different,” he said in an interview with NME. “As an artist, you learn your craft by playing live. I started out going to Europe; you’re in a different culture, which makes you a little fearful, but you embrace the culture, and the culture embraces you…”

Discussing current arrangements, which requires bands to acquire prohibitively expensive visas in order to play in a number of EU countries, John described them as “OK for Ed Sheeran and me, or The Rolling Stones – people that can actually afford to do this stuff.

“But for younger artists, it’s a crushing thing. We’re still trying to solve this problem; it’s a slow process because the Government is a slow process.”

John has been a longstanding campaigner for change in the sector, and has met virtually with the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in an effort to break the deadlock.

He made similar comments to The Observer in June, describing the situation as “A nightmare […] To young people just starting a career, it’s crucifying.”

In the same interview he had strong words for the British government, describing them as “philistines. We’ve got used to governments – especially the British government – just telling us lies every day, and I don’t feel OK with that.

“Look what they did with the NHS. After all that those people did during Covid, they give them a 1% [pay] increase. I find that extraordinary. I just can’t live with that. It makes me so angry.”

The pop veteran’s latest comments come after a parliamentary inquiry found that touring musicians face an “existential threat” to their careers due to costs and red tape incurred by the Brexit deal.

In a letter to David Frost, the Brexit minister, The Lords European Affairs Committee warned that the problem “is so severe as to force many performers out of the sector,” and condemned the government for a preferring to “pursue headlines rather than deal with the very serious issues accurately and substantively”.

Today (October 22) sees John release The Lockdown Sessions – a collaboration album which sees him joining forces with the likes of Dua Lipa, Young Thug and Nicki Minaj