Elton John criticized the British government in an Observer interview last week, calling out “philistines” who failed to recognize how Brexit has negatively impacted touring musicians. “I’m livid about what the government did when Brexit happened,” John said. “We’ve been talking to Lord [Paul] Strasburger about it, and we’ve been talking to Lord [David] Frost, but we didn’t really get anywhere with him. … It’s a nightmare. To young people just starting a career, it’s crucifying.”
Days later, the UK’s Brexit minister David Frost made light of John’s comments. “I can’t help noticing that his first hits were before the UK even became a member of the European Union so I think there is probably more at play here than pure rules within the then European Community,” Frost said.
Thom Yorke offered a few words of his own for Frost tonight, retweeting an article via The Independent that reads, “David Frost says it’s not his job to solve Brexit touring crisis hitting musicians.” Yorke added: “oh yeah pal? you think?”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in March that Frost “is in overall charge of making this happen.” Frost deferred responsibility three months later: “It is the responsibility of DCMS [Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport] to take it forward with our embassies.”
Frost has argued that musicians can work without visas in 17 EU countries, while The Guardian’s senior EU sources claim “zero” approach has been made to remove work visa barriers for musicians and other artists post-Brexit. A coalition of musicians have backed an initiative called Let the Music Move, which calls on the UK government to “mitigate the Brexit-related impacts of restrictions, costs and delays on European touring.”
Yorke (along with his Radiohead bandmates) has long been vocally opposed to the Brexit referendum. Following the 2016 vote for the UK to leave the European Union, Yorke and Nigel Godrich shared an official petition supporting another Brexit vote. Three years later Yorke criticized then Prime Minister Theresa May for her role in the referendum. He compared the “immense distress and suffering” caused by the Brexit process to “the early days of the Third Reich.”
In February, Yorke’s bandmate Colin Greenwood wrote an op-ed for The Guardian arguing the European tours that helped establish Radiohead in their early days might not be possible for musicians coming up in the Brexit era.
Revisit Pitchfork’s 2016 Festival Report “Glastonbury in the Time of Brexit,” and learn more about how the Brexit vote will effect European the music industry on the Pitch.