Many have argued that the transport, pharmaceuticals, clothing and fishing industries will be hit hardest by Brexit. But what does it mean for the arts sector? In this blog, Dr Charlotte Faucher, British Academy Post-doctoral Fellow in History, discusses a research project on how Brexit has and will affect the arts and cultural sector, and puts forward recommendations to ensure the industry maintains links across Europe, thus helping the sector’s economic value in the UK.
- The result of the 2016 EU referendum has had a tremendous emotional impact on the arts and cultural sector, a sector that is also suffering in the context of COVID-19.
- Brexit will significantly impact the sector’s funding opportunities, and many are worried that they might not be able to hire workers from EU countries and invite EU-based artists and performers as easily as in the past.
- The sector needs clarity, funding, and a favourable visa regime in order to plan and work effectively from 2021.
As the transition period comes to an end on 31 December 2020, the uncertainties over what Brexit will actually mean are manyfold: firstly we still do not know if there will even be a deal; and secondly the terms of a possible deal have yet to be defined.
Academic studies, the British media and lobby groups have warned that industries such as clothing and textiles, transport equipment, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, finance and also the fishing industry, will be hit the hardest by the UK’s departure from the European Union (EU) because these export high shares of output to the EU.
Making sense of the Brexit loses for the arts sector
In a report I have recently published, in partnership with Tom Fleming Creative Consultancy and in the framework of The University of Manchester’s Collaboration Labs programme, I show that uncertainty over Brexit is a major impediment to the arts sector too. This sector exports almost half of all its services to EU member states and, moreover, because it heavily relies on in-person services it has also been harshly hit by COVID-19.
The result of the 2016 referendum on the UK’s departure from the EU has had a tremendous emotional impact on the arts and cultural sector. Brexit will further affect the funding, mobility, and partnerships which have been so central to the workings of cultural organisations in the UK.
After 31 December 2020, the UK will no longer be eligible to be the lead on the major EU cultural and creative programme, Creative Europe, which gave grants to UK projects worth an average of €18.4 million a year between 2014 and 2020.
Beyond the question of funding, the sector is worried that it will no longer be able to offer diverse cultural programmes to communities throughout the UK. Nor will it benefit from partnerships with organisations based in the EU which have been so important for innovation and knowledge exchange over the past decades. For example, without the current EU financial and networking incentives in place, UK distributors and cinemas might no longer be in a position take a risk on smaller European films in a British market that is already dominated by US and British studio productions.
Once the UK leaves the EU single market and now that the Immigration Act has been signed into a law, the sector is also worried that it might not be able to hire workers from EU countries and invite EU-based artists and performers as easily as it has been able to do in the past. This will be financially and administratively burdensome, especially for small and medium-size organisations that often do not have the resources and trained staff to deal with additional insurance, visa, and travel paperwork.
The departure of the UK from the EU is especially alarming for arts practitioners and administrators in leave-voting areas. I consulted with politicians and staff in the arts sectors in three areas where the vote to leave the EU was over 65% (Great Yarmouth, Stoke-on-Trent, and Middlesbrough) and all fear that Brexit will see their regions poorer financially and culturally and will deprive them from important networks and funding to continue offering dynamic cultural programmes to their communities.
Innovative solutions to maintain links with the EU cultural sector
Despite this gloomy picture, I found that there is – at individual, organisational and municipal levels – a will to continue working with cultural organisations in the EU.
Some solutions are very innovative: a few UK-based groups are in the process of opening sister companies in an EU country in order to be eligible to apply for EU funding. The Site Gallery in Sheffield has initiated new partnerships with a similar organisation in Germany and has planned to bid for EU funding together, with the German gallery leading on the application. Other UK-based cultural groups and cities have joined already existing municipal schemes for cities in the EU such as Eurocities or government-led initiatives that will allow them to maintain connection with cultural projects within the EU.
For cultural organisations in the EU, there is likewise a willingness to keep Britain as an active participant of discussions and programmes about culture.
Nascent policy recommendations
Clarity on Brexit is needed if we want to enable the UK arts sector to plan work in EU-member states and with partners in the EU.
Any deal agreed with the EU must take into consideration the sector-specific needs regarding funding and movement of goods (including artefacts), services, and people. In particular, in order to ensure the sustainability of the sector, the government must grant art practitioners and staff in the cultural sector a favourable visa regime.
Although it will be impossible to replicate the complex, mutual system of EU cultural schemes, the government must think about how to best continue supporting cultural diversity within a reciprocal framework. The UK will be in need of a network that will send a clear message that it is open for international cultural business.
Finally, a replacement fund for Creative Europe is a necessity. Arts administrators are calling for an increase in government funding for cultural organisations so that they can collaborate with European partners because it will cost more to undertake partnerships with European counterparts.
Certainty is needed now as a matter of urgency to enable effective and successful planning in 2021 and beyond.
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