Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator Lord Frost responded to Sir Elton John’s criticism of the Brexit-effect on the entertainment industry on Tuesday, telling a select committee that the musician had hits before Britain was even a member of the European Union.
The ‘Rocket Man’ singer slammed the British government this week, accusing it of neglecting touring musicians in the Brexit agreement, warning of a “looming catastrophe” as free movement for workers across the European bloc had become more restrictive.
“I’m livid about what the government did when Brexit happened,” Elton raged in an interview with The Observer. “They made no provision for the entertainment business, and not just for musicians, actors and film directors, but for the crews, the dancers, the people who earn a living by going to Europe. It’s a nightmare. To young people just starting a career, it’s crucifying.”
However, Lord Frost told the DCMS select committee hearing that the legendary pop singer himself had not done too badly in his career before Britain had even joined the common market.
“I can’t help noticing that he had his first hits before the UK even became a member of the European Union, so I think there’s probably more at play here than pure rules applying within the then-European Community,” Frost said of Sir Elton.
“Talent is important, and that’s why we support our talented industries,” the cabinet minister added.
Culture minister Caroline Dinenage revealed to the committee that visa-free touring was now available to British musicians in 17 of the EU member states, each of which has its own rules, with Lord Frost adding that he hopes the remaining nations will become “much more flexible” once the Covid-19 pandemic is more under control on the continent.
“If we are back to normal, I very much hope that we will have had good, constructive negotiations with the seven (countries), as we understand it, who operate more restrictive rules,” Frost said.
The Brexit negotiator went on to suggest that rather than complaining about the rules, Sir Elton could use his contacts to lobby EU member states to relax their rules for touring musicians adding: “I think we would very much welcome that, I said that to Elton John and I will say that to others,” he said.
“The country took a decision to leave the European Union. It took a decision to end free movement, and that is what we want to deliver on. And as I said that brings big change.”