‘He had his first hits before the UK even became a member of the European Union’: Brexit minister Lord Frost blasts Sir Elton John over pop megastar’s criticism of the Government’s handling of post-Brexit travel restrictions on musicians in Europe

  • John has criticised paperwork hurdles hindering UK artists working in the EU
  • They met in May and singer later warned musicians face ‘looming catastrophe’
  • But Lord Frost today told MPs: ‘I think there’s probably more at play here’ 

Senior minister Lord Frost took an astonishing swipe at Sir Elton John over Brexit today, questioning the megastar’s motives in campaigning to ease travel for musicians.

The Brexit Minister took aim at the Candle in the Wind singer, who has criticised the Government’s handling of paperwork hurdles hindering UK artists working in the EU since last year.

The two men met in May, after which Sir Elton warned MPs musicians are facing a ‘looming catastrophe’ because of post-Brexit travel restrictions on touring.  

But Lord Frost, facing the Digital, Culture Media and Sport Committee today, said: ‘I had a good conversation with Elton John, I thought it was helpful to hear directly.  

‘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,’ he said.

‘Talent is important and that’s why we support our talented industries.’

However Labour MP Kevin Brennan hit back immediately, pointing out: ‘The Musicians Union, of which I am a member … and the ISM (Incorporated Society of Musician) have pointed out that touring is much more complicated now across Europe post Brexit than it would have been before Britain joined the European Economic Community when it did.’

The Brexit Minister took aim at the Candle in the Wind singer, who has criticised the Government’s handling of blocks preventing UK artists working in the EU since last year.

The two men met in May, after which Sir Elton warned MPs musicians are facing a ‘looming catastrophe’ because of post-Brexit travel restrictions on touring.

Labour MP Kevin Brennan pointed out: ‘The Musicians Union, of which I am a member … and the ISM (Incorporated Society of Musician) have pointed out that touring is much more complicated now across Europe post Brexit than it would have been before Britain joined the European Economic Community when it did.’

The SNP’s culture spokesman John Nicolson, who sits on the committee, said that Mr Frost’s remarks were ‘entirely gratuitous’.

Mr John, real name Reginald Dwight, has his first hit with Your Song in 1970, three years before the UK joined what was then the European Economic Community.

In a statement to the committee earlier this month Sir Elton confirmed he had met Lord Frost, accompanied by husband David Furnish and Craig Stanley, an agent at the Marshall Arts touring agency, to discuss the issue.

‘New and emerging artists will be unable to tour Europe freely – an essential part of their education and development – due to the prohibitive costs of visas, carnets and permits,’ he said.

‘However, despite this looming catastrophe, the Government seems unable or unwilling to fix this gaping hole in their trade deal and defaults to blaming the EU rather than finding ways out of this mess.’

He added his objections ‘aren’t about the impact on me and artists who tour arenas and stadiums’.

‘We are lucky enough to have the support staff, finance and infrastructure to cut through the red tape that Lord Frost’s no-deal has created,’ he said.

‘The gravest of situations is about the damage to the next generation of musicians and emerging artists, whose careers will stall before they’ve even started due to this infuriating blame game.

‘If I had faced the financial and logistical obstacles facing young musicians now when I started out, I’d never have had the opportunity to build the foundations of my career and I very much doubt I would be where I am today.’

Lord Frost said it is ‘impossible to be sure’ whether the situation with post-Brexit touring will improve ‘because so much depends on the course of the pandemic’.

He added: ‘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.’ 

Lord Frost’s outburst came during a tetchy appearance in front of MPs. He said he was appearing as a ‘courtesy’ for an hour, despite MPs wanting to grill him for far longer.  

The Brexit minister cancelled an appearance before the committee earlier this month.

Mr Brennan accused Lord Frost of seeking to avoid facing questions from the select committee. 

‘I believe that you aren’t keen to be here and you have tried to evade coming here before us,’ Mr Brennan said.

Lord Frost responded: ‘This is my fifth select committee appearance within a month and I have got another two in the next couple of weeks, so I don’t particularly appreciate it if it’s suggested that I’m not fulfilling scrutiny responsibilities and I’m here now.’

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