cultural circles fear post-Brexit

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It’s a sad day for the arts“. Marshall Marcus – British and “great supporter of the European Union– had to leave his country after Brexit, voted in June 2016. The secretary general of the European Union Youth Orchestra (EUYO) even took some musicians in his wake. Established in London in 1976, EUYO moved to Italy in 2018. “It was obvious that the orchestra had to live in a member country of the European Union“Points out Marshall Marcus.

Because, in the aftermath of June 23, 2016, when the British mainly chose to leave the European Union, the cultural circles of the country accused the blow. The Federation of Creative Industries, a national organization, announced near the referendum that 96% of its members were in favor of the “Remain”, according to a survey. While Brexit is now official, many are concerned about the consequences it could have on culture. Consequences that remain unclear until the outlines of a chord have been drawn. Once it is not customary, the British and Europeans will have to return to the negotiating table in order to agree on their future relations.

“The arts are international”

We don’t know much at the moment, because culture is clearly not the government’s priority in the Brexit file, asserts Emmanuelle Saulnier-Cassat, professor of law of the European Union at the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines. Besides, I don’t think it will ever become one. There are other sectors impacted where lobbying has been much stronger“.

The fears are no less numerous. They focus first on freedom of movement, whether of people, services or goods. “Tomorrow, it may be necessary to obtain working visas, there could be more important checks on musical instruments to verify that they do not have prohibited materials such as ivory, for example, specifies Emmanuelle Saulnier-Cassat. Goods, therefore works of art or instruments, can now be taxed“.

Organizing tours will become more complex for musicians, who are used to crossing the border constantly. “Non-British artists and cultural professionals have already left the country, notes Andrew Ormston, a professor at the University of Edinburgh and a specialist in cultural policies. At the administrative level, their life will become more complicated. Artists are international, the arts are international“.

For the specialist, all sectors will be impacted. “Government and the media tend to focus on highly skilled workers, but there will be problems at all levels. Edinburgh hosts, for example, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the most important artistic festival in the world. However, the organizers are already having problems finding seasonal workers ”. The UK could also be excluded from certain projects. Because not only has the European Union Youth Orchestra left the country, but British musicians are unlikely to be able to play there in the future. “It is likely that our British players will no longer be able to stay in the orchestra, confirms Marshall Marcus. Going to play in the UK will also become much more complicated“. And, if the EUYO had to move its headquarters, it is also to claim European subsidies.

“Culture could become poorer”

These should indeed stop for the British. The Creative Europe program was however endowed with 1.4 billion euros for the 2014-2020 period with the main objective of supporting culture. The United Kingdom received 15.9 million euros in 2018, 9% of European funds. “The United Kingdom will not be able to replace the European Union in all areas, considers Emmanuelle Saulnier-Cassat. The government has already made promises to fishermen, farmers, they will not be able to compensate everything“. UK public spending on culture in 2018 was just 0.7% of GDP. “People underestimate European investments in culture, regrets Andrew Ormston. Development projects have been funded by the EU in disadvantaged areas. The loss will be immense. The government has promised that a fund will be created, but we have no idea how it will work.“.

No clear commitment has been made by the government. At the moment, it is not possible to fully assess the losses. Certain sectors will be particularly affected by this drop in European subsidies. The audiovisual sector, for example, the cinema. “The sector most impacted if we think in financial terms, will be that of the media and the audiovisual sector which received 65.5 million euros from the Creative Europe program between 2014 and 2018“, Explains Cécile Doustaly. The British film Slumdog Millionaire thus received almost 988,000 euros from the Creative Europe program.

Less obvious at first glance, British heritage could also suffer from Brexit. “There is a very strong, financial and administrative disengagement from the British government on heritage. They consider it to be related to tourism and focus on the bigger sites. It is obvious that the small archaeological sites and those which are still being explored find themselves completely marginalized“Regrets Cécile Doustaly, who is currently writing a book on British cultural policies. Some endangered sites – like the Orkney Islands, an archipelago in the north of Scotland threatened by coastal erosion – could find themselves in great difficulty without sufficient funds to maintain them.

The Orkney archipelago could be threatened if funding is cut. George Sargent / REUTERS

British culture could become poorerFears the specialist. To the point that apprehension is great among professionals in the field, as Andrew Ormston puts it: “I’m worried. When I was young, Glasgow was the European capital of culture, this contact with Europe marked me “. And to add, with a bitter smile: “It’s like the Iceberg in Titanic, at first it feels like it’s not that bad. But when you look deeper, you realize that the damage is actually much more serious“.



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