What 96% of us didn’t want has happened
There is still shock as we survey what happened last night, and the arts generally were unanimously for remain – 96% of the Creative Industries Federation members were in favour of staying in Europe. Most could not understand why a party leadership contest should be holding the nation’s economic, diplomatic and cultural future to ransom, but now we have to work out what it means and how to make the paying of that ransom work to our benefit.
The EU’s contribution to our arts runs into millions a year, says the art lawyer Becky Shaw of Boodle Hatfield. “It is not unreasonable to expect a complete reassessment of how the arts in the UK are to be funded in the longer term” she says. Artists’ Release Rights, which gives artists an ongoing stake in the sale of their work, might come under the microscope. On the other hand, export licences became an EU regulation in 1993, whereby important works of art are “saved for the nation”, but the mechanism is awkward and difficult to work and could now be reformed.
Artists’ access to EU markets might be compromised, Europe being the biggest export market for our creatives, with 56% of our cultural overseas trade.
The EU campaigns have been extraordinarily damaging causing social, economic and geographic divisions, internally and internationally, and it looks as though the most stable sector able to have any healing capability will be the arts. It is, after all, the fastest growing sector in the economy and our new identity doesn’t necessarily need to change that.
Training our artists in European institutions might be restricted, and visas for performers across Europe will come under scrutiny – how will the thousands of orchestra and concert musicians that criss-cross the Continent fair?
The actor Sam West in his role as chairman of the National Campaign for the Arts is deeply worried about the access to vital European funding, like the €1.3 billion Creative Europe programme. “Now more than ever the arts need resources and support to allow us to play a role in bringing communities back together and to continue to fly the flag for British culture” he said today.
It’s going to be complicated, it's going to be painful, and it’s going to take all our ingenuity to ameliorate the effects of being forcibly alienated from the family that has included most of our arts organisations at one time or another.
It will also be interesting to see what develops within the DCMS. John Whittingdale, the culture secretary, was a loud proponent of Brexit, while his long-serving culture minister, Ed Vaizey, described leaving the EU as “irresponsible”.