What Do the Brexit Events Rules Mean for Our Industry?

by Francesca Pinder,

16 February 2021

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Contents

From seizing ham sandwiches at border posts to the foreign football managers being locked out of England’s Premier League, the latest Brexit news is painting a picture of chaos and hardship, both for the UK and EU.

But as both sides prepare to vote on the Free Trade Agreement brokered in December, what are the implications for the events industry? Amid the hysteria and hand-wringing accompanying each Brexit update, it can be difficult to ascertain the truth, particularly for events organisers whose business is a series of moving parts.

In this post, we’re going to try and light a path through the fog of confusion. We’re going to inspect what the prospective post-Brexit events rules will mean for our industry and highlight the specific clauses that affect both people and equipment. 

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Movement of Attendees

One of the most high-profile facets of Brexit has been the end to freedom of movement, which previously allowed British citizens to live and work anywhere in the EU and vice-versa. The latest Brexit news is full of horror stories about Brits and Europeans being forced out of one another’s territory by new bureaucratic hurdles. 

For event attendees in Britain and the EU, the good news is that they can still travel to gatherings on the other side of the English channel. However, they may face challenges along the way. 

The UK’s new rules suggest a person from the EU can visit the country without applying for a visa and then stay for up to six months. In the EU, the current rules allow travellers to stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. In both cases, visitors are theoretically allowed to participate in business-related activities such as meetings, events and conferences.

In reality, the question of what actually constitutes paid work may make things trickier for event attendees – an issue we’ll address shortly.

Movement of Talent

Here’s where things could be particularly challenging for the events industry.

In the UK’s latest Brexit updates, much media attention has fallen on the government’s failure to agree on visa-free movement for music artists. As a result of this failure, any performer travelling to the EU must now seek separate permits from any member-state they wish to perform in. These can vary between temporary visas and formal work permits.

All the evidence suggests that these restrictions will affect events speakers too. Indeed, Brussels’ new directives suggest that anyone from the UK carrying out a contract in the EU area, and any self-employed people providing services within this region, will require a visa.

Peter Heath is the manager of PLASA, a membership body for suppliers to the event, entertainment and installation industries. He says: “My suspicion is that in some parts of Europe, if you’re going to be speaking or part of a panel and you’re getting paid for it, you’re going to require a permit. However, if you’re a guest speaker, you might get away without needing the documentation”.

It is believed that speakers coming from the EU to the UK will face their own restrictions. According to the Brexit update published by the UK Government before Christmas, performers (including speakers) will need a Tier 5 visa, which will cost £244

Further, the UK Government has confirmed that “as a business visitor you cannot do paid or unpaid work for a UK company or as a self-employed person. You cannot do a work placement or internship, or sell directly to the public or provide goods and services”. 

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Movement of Equipment

In the flurry of confusion and condemnation that has greeted the latest Brexit news, a new term has entered our collective argot: cabotage.

The UK Government defines cabotage as “the loading and unloading of goods for hire or reward in one country by a vehicle registered in a different country”. 

Essentially, the new rules limit the number of times a truck can load and unload in a third-party state. For events organisers, this could create particular problems if they plan to hold several events in one country, or organise tours across several states.

Under the terms of the new FTA, UK operators will be able to undertake unlimited journeys to, from and through the EU. But they can only undertake two additional movements once they arrive in mainland Europe, with a maximum of one cabotage movement per seven-day period

In fact, things could turn out to be even stricter than that. Peter Heath says that the movement of stages, furniture and audiovisual equipment from the UK into and around the EU “is all going to be seen as part of a commercial drop. Any country could say ‘that is a commercial drop. If it’s going on the stage, that’s going to contribute to the financial success of the event, so you’re governed by cabotage and tax.’”

At present, the UK’s rules for EU-origin hauliers are very similar to those of Brussels. So EU operators can undertake unlimited journeys to, from and through the UK. However, once in the country, they are only allowed two cabotage movements and these movements have to be performed within seven days of unloading.

So, all in all, the picture for our industry is distinctly cloudy at present. However, us events folk tend to be a resilient bunch. Whatever bureaucratic hurdles are put in front of us, we’ll find a way to overcome them.

Featured image: Stickers via unsplash

Francesca Pinder
Francesca Pinder

Operations Director and executive tea hoarder.

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