Real People, Real Lives, Real Jobs

13 Months Later & the Same Problems Exist – Now Time is Running Out to Find a Workable Solution

 13 months later and the same problems exist – What are they playing at?

It’s 13 months now since Britain left the EU, Johnson’s oven ready deal meant that vast swathes of the Creative Industries were left out of the T.C.A. and embroiled with more red tape than you could shake a stick at. Visas, work permits, carnets, cabotage, closed door policy for tour buses, import duties & VAT on Merchandise, CITES and zero information as to what is needed, how to get it, and how to present it at the borders.

Let’s take a look at these issues in turn.

The information below is given as an opinion, things change rapidly, and the information may become invalid, I have listed links to where you may be able to find the correct information you need, I cannot accept any liability for any issues you may face.


For ref -

The EU created the Schengen area on 26 March 1995, it basically meant that the 26 countries involved officially abolished all passport and all other types of border control at their mutual borders. When we were part of the EU, we could freely move around, live, work and study in any of the then 27 EU States.

Now that we are no longer members of the EU and no longer have freedom of movement and access to Schengen ( we were never part of the Schengen area but as members of the EU had full access for movement of goods and people ), it means we are subject to the requirements of the Schengen area, As we are classed as non-visa nationals, the number of days permitted to stay in the Schengen zone cannot exceed 90 days in 180 days regardless of reason to visit. Also, you must bear in mind that the fact that you are able to obtain a Schengen visa to enter and reside for a certain amount of time in a Schengen area doesn’t apply to working or studying in that country.

In other words, you can have access to the Schengen area for a 90 day in a rolling 180-day period for tourism and Business purposes but not study or work. Confused??? I am. It’s best described as a visa to allow entry BUT not a work permit. In each of the EU countries for non EU members then it’s simply that each sovereign state can denote its own regulations on who can work for which jobs and which amount of time.

To alleviate any confusion there is a handy Schengen calculator to help:

90/180 Schengen Visa Rule

The 180-day period keeps rolling. Therefore, anytime you wish to enter the Schengen area, you just have to count backwards the last 180 days and see if you have been present in the Schengen for more than 90 days throughout that period.

For most people that only travel for tourism or holidays this will be fine, your two weeks on the Costa Brava will not fall foul of the Schengen Visa Scheme, however they do count as 14 days out of your allowed 90/180.

Where the issue starts to affect Creatives wishing to tour the EU, is when we wish to be in the Schengen area longer than 90 Days, which is not possible.

As an example, I was contacted yesterday by a Tour manager who has been asked to work on a tour of the Schengen countries for an artist that wishes to play arenas and festivals, but the length of the tour means that they will overstay their time in the Schengen area by 5 days. This means they cannot undertake the final 5 days of the tour.

Another example is an opera singer that has a contract for over 90 days that fly’s home at the weekends to save the 2 days and thus stay within the rules, but at what cost?

Now I said earlier that this doesn’t allow us to work in Schengen, it just allows us access.

So, let’s now turn to work permits.

Work Permits

Each of the 27 states, is a sovereign nation, as were we when we were part of the EU. This means they can set their own rules on work permits and control who is or isn’t allowed to work within their state and the amount of time they are allowed to do so.

There are some states, Spain, Germany, France, that allow us to work without the need for a work permit for 90 days, but there are other restrictions that you have to adhere to, in fact a legal requirement to make sure the authorities in each state are aware of your presence to work in that state.

Other States are not so generous and as there are so many variations of work permits, there are a couple handy guides that you can check to make sure you know what the requirements for work permits are for the State you wish to work in: 

Ian Smith from UKEArtworks and co-founder of Carry On Touring has produced this:

And the ISM has also produced a similar version:

So far, we have two lots of red tape to shake our stick at, keeping an eye on how long we have been in Schengen and do we have the correct work permit to work in the States the events are in.

What else is there to hinder us on our jolly way?


Carnets, the word that fills us all with dread, but actually yes they are a pain to complete but they last for a year so can be used multiple times.

So, the question we are asked almost daily:

“Do I need a Carnet?”

The answer is very specific:

YES - if you are carrying equipment or tools you will need a carnet, so that includes:

A technician who carries a tool case, & if the case contains equipment with a serial number, that equipment must be listed separately, if the tool doesn’t have a serial number, then it can be listed as various tools.

If a photographer wants to take his cameras and equipment, he will need a carnet.

If a band want to take their backline (amps etc) they will need a carnet.

You should be beginning to get the picture, basically if you are taking equipment to use as part of a show / event, whether you own it or hire it, into the EU area, you will need a Carnet.

The Carnet is for goods or equipment that you are temporarily exporting / importing to another State, to be used in an event, and then returned to the home country afterwards.

The only exemption to this and the other answer to the question above:

No – You do not need a carnet if you are traveling with your own personal portable musical instruments, one or two guitars, a drum kit, a keyboard etc. As long as you are able to carry it through the border control you will be ok. However, a case containing multiple guitars would probably be frowned at.

The area becomes vary grey though when we talk about a guitarist pedal boards, are they part of the instrument or backline?

This very much depends on the day and the Border official stamping your Carnet. If he/she has got out of the wrong side of bed, you may end up with your pedalboard being impounded and being fined.

We would recommend in this scenario to get a Carnet just in case.

The other thing to be aware of, if your guitarist decides to nip into his favourite guitar shop in Paris, and buy a new guitar, that cannot added to the carnet and would be subject to import duties AND VAT even if s/he as already paid VAT ( hint they should have noted that the instrument was being exported and got a VAT exception and VAT refund. ) 

There is another word that strike the fear of death into us all:


Cabotage is a ruling on the number of movements a vehicle may make in an EU state or the UK.

 A UK vehicle may make up to 3 movements in 7 days and then must return home.

I believe it is slightly different for EU based trucks in that they are allowed 4 movements.

Ok so what is a movement? A movement constitutes the delivery of items or equipment to a single drop off point, example a UK truck can take the bands equipment to Paris for a gig, that’s the first of the 3 movements, if the truck goes off to a truck park whilst empty, that doesn’t count as another movement, however, if after loading in, the empty cases are stored on the truck, and the truck goes to a truck park, that is its second movement, and the start of the 7 day time limit to return home. Returning to collect the equipment would be a third movement and the truck would need to return home.

If, however after the load in the truck stays put at the venue or goes off to park empty, then they can do two further movements, so they could deliver the equipment to Berlin for a second gig, for example, and then Amsterdam for a third gig, as long as they return home within the 7 days of the second movement.

As you can see, a tour with 20 dates around the EU will be a logistical nightmare, not to mention the impact on the environment.

Well, you might say can’t they just use different trucks?

It’s not as simple as that, the trucks used for touring are very specialist as are the drivers who are very experienced in handling the equipment needed for our shows.

Example, an orchestra buys its own specialist truck with air suspension and climate control to protect the Instruments (Instruments which are worth potentially millions of pounds), they also employ drivers who know how to handle such instruments, you cannot just use another truck.

Another example, a major artist touring for 6 months around Europe including the UK, with 20+ trucks playing arena and stadiums. The timing for this type of tour means that the drivers have little time to get between venues, and also quickly gain experience on how to load / unload the equipment they are carrying. There simply wouldn’t be time to swap trucks.

So how does Cabotage affect smaller acts?

If you are a band and you own/rent a transit van, (other makes are available) throw your gear in the back and set off for your dream tour around the EU, you are still affected by the cabotage rules. Technically any vehicle being used exclusively to carry commercial goods falls foul of cabotage rules

There is however an exemption to the rule that has been recently agreed, and that is the Splitter van.

The Splitter van is a vehicle that is what it says in the title, the van is split into half seated for passengers and the other half for storage of kit. If you can squeeze your tour into such a vehicle and most smallish tours can then you can be free of the Cabotage nightmare. However, you may well still require a Carnet, see above.

Addenda - From a question about splitters & trailers.

A splitter with a trailer would be exempt from cabotage rules also. However if the combined train weight of the vehicle and trailer exceed 3500kgs and the use of the vehicle is commercial then legally it needs to be used under the umbrella of an operator license. In practice there is some leeway about what enforcement agencies (both in the UK and on the continent) consider to be commercial use. - Tarrant Anderson, Vans For Bands.

Closed Door Policy on Tour Buses

A tour bus setting off from the UK to tour the EU with a number of passengers must have a manifest of those passengers. All passengers must be onboard prior to departing the UK. The bus is then not allowed to pick up further passengers in the EU, example, the tour promoter’s rep cannot jump on in Paris for the ride down to Barcelona. Another example, a crew member falls ill or needs to return home for family reasons, their replacement is not allowed to ride in their place.


This is not my area of expertise, not that any of this is in reality, but you are allowed to carry merchandise up to the value of £1500.00 out of the UK without issue, however you are only allowed to enter the EU with €1000.00 worth of merchandise. There are complex rules around this, and I would advise keeping up to date looking at Ian’s or MU / ISM.

So, you can see there is some disparity there!

The Musicians' Union have the following info to help!


Again, not my area but it’s about the transportation of rare or endangered species, this can be certain woods used in instruments, of ivory keyboards etc. As the movement of these endangered species is largely banned, moving instruments made from these species can be a nightmare. There are a number of regulations to adhere to and relevant paperwork that needs to be obtained, and only certain ports are allowed to process that paperwork. I’m told by Ian (co director and founder of UKEARTSWORK ) that in the UK these can be obtained relatively easily and vital if you think your instrument has anything like Ivory or rosewood etc.

The Musician's Union also have a very comprehensive resource on CITES:



So, there are just some of the nightmares that face Creative Touring Professionals wishing to tour the EU post Brexit. And as I said at the very start of this blog, 13 months on and very little progress if any has been made by the government in any attempt to come up with or negotiate solutions with the EU on our behalf. 

What do we need?

We need three things. 

1/. In the short term we need clarity, clarity in where we can and cannot tour and what paperwork we need to complete to ensure a trouble-free and cost-effective tour can take place. The government need to provide this information in a clear and concise manner that can be easily understood. 

2/. All border officials across the EU should have the relevant training and knowledge to understand these complex issue and the rules governing them.

3/. In the long term we need a Cultural exemption / passport to be negotiated with the EU which would allow Creative professionals to be exempt from the need for work permits, the time limitations of the Schengen area, and Cabotage for our specialist trucks. It would be good to do away with Carnets, but that is never going to happen. All of this needs to be 100% reciprocal to allow EU based creative professional to tour the UK in a similar manner.

It’s a big ask, but unless an exemption as above is granted, the future of creative touring of both the EU and the UK looks very bleak indeed.

What we don’t need is the same old rhetoric, “we’ve asked the EU and they said no” is not the answer.

To achieve this we need the UK governmental departments to actually start talking to each other, to understand each of the issues above and to work out a workable solution with the EU so that we can CARRY ON TOURING!

Thanks to:

Stuart Mcpherson – KB Event

Tarrant Anderson – Van for Bands

Dave Webster - Musician's Union

For checking this blog for me.

 Tim Brennan - Nominee for the Petition Campaign of the Year Award at the Your UK Parliament Awards.


Older Post
Newer Post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

Close (esc)


Use this popup to embed a mailing list sign up form. Alternatively use it as a simple call to action with a link to a product or a page.

Age verification

By clicking enter you are verifying that you are old enough to consume alcohol.

Your cart is currently empty.
Shop now