A new Brexit deadline looms threatening cultural workers

January 25, 2021, 10:52 am

Almost one month in Brexitland, a litany of new headaches has just begun for the cultural workers on both sides of the Channel. While many were relieved that a trade and cooperation deal was finally struck on Christmas’ Eve, adjustments to the new life outside the bloc are causing pain and raising questions and doubts in the United Kingdom, with food deliveries being delayed for not having the right customs paperwork and supply chains being abruptly halted. 

The challenges of piles of paperwork do not only apply to the many businesses that used to ship goods to the European Union. Cultural workers could be next in line. 

The 1246 pages of the EU-UK Agreement includes a Protocol on Social Security Coordination, ensuring UK nationals and EU citizens have a range of social security cover when working and living in the EU and the UK, and that cross-border workers (and their employers, where applicable) are only liable to pay social security contributions in one State at a time. 

This is an important feature for the artists and cultural workers who tour extensively throughout Europe, and increasingly central as performers hope to be back on stage at the end of the COVID tunnel. 

The Protocol also includes a ‘detached worker’ rule which enables workers to remain subject to their home country’s legislation whilst working temporarily in another State. The aim is to recognise the temporary nature of work in another State and to reduce the burden on the worker, their employer (where applicable) and the social security institutions, as well as helping the worker to avoid a fragmented social security history.

According to the Protocol, however, EU Member States have to opt in to the use of the ‘detached worker’ provision until 31 January, failing which could cause a new Brexit-related chaos.

Opting in is beneficial for both the EU countries and the UK – as well as many sectors of their economies. The rather technical issue should not be met with resistance by the EU Member States. To date, Austria, Hungary, Portugal and Sweden have already opted in. Others are expected to do so before the deadline next week.

The debate on the implications of the post-Brexit deal on cultural workers, however, is also stormed by new rules that might well hinder artistic mobility and touring. Following disagreement on visa-free arrangements for artists and cultural workers, they will have to comply with costly work permits procedures if they want to travel and work across the Channel. 

It is now a matter for each EU Member State to decide whether to demand work visas, in the absence of a bloc-wide agreement. Artists in mobility, however, should be included in the visa exemptions foreseen in the Brexit Deal, a ‘standard arrangement’ which is already included in several agreements the EU has concluded with third countries, many in the cultural and creative sectors ask.  

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