Today, on 29 March, 2017, the United Kingdom triggered article 50, initiating the process of exiting the European Union. We greatly regret this decision.
Complex negotiations will now ensue to separate and unravel the intricate ties which have brought together the UK and the EU since 1973.
We realise that a delicate balance must be found. On the one hand, we understand that other countries flirting with the option of leaving the European Union should see that this is a decision not to be taken lightly, with no ‘pick and choose’ option. On the other hand, we recognise that we will all lose out if a neighbouring European country and its population is hit all too hard by the possible negative impact of Brexit, economic, social and cultural.
Furthermore, in times in which neo-nationalist and populist rhetoric is gaining ground and influencing decisions on both sides of the Channel, civil society exchange and dialogue is of increasing importance to ensure the stability of our democratic societies. The citizens of Europe must continue to exchange and get to know each other, enhancing cohesion, stability and mutual understanding. Such exchanges should not be restricted to social classes that can easily travel and study abroad. Only so can Europe continue to safeguard its cultures and fight the populist rhetoric, which distinguishes all too easily between ‘them’ and ‘us’. Such exchange lays the foundation for a stable and unified future in Europe, whatever the political architecture is that future generations choose to support this endeavour.
During the negotiations, we therefore underline the necessity to consider exceptions for the arts and culture sector, allowing for access to Creative Europe, supporting artist mobility and ensuring exchanges via the Erasmus programme:
Creative Europe, while a financially minor programme of the EU, holds large symbolic value and encourages exchange between cultural players linked to EU policy priorities. We encourage reflections on having the UK remain in this programme. Links between culture players and artists could be promoted and alignment on policy issues at a certain level ensured.
Large-scale arts institutions might understandably fear consequences of reinstated tariffs and mobility restrictions. However, while these are certainly a burden, they may become insurmountable barriers for small-scale companies and emerging artists. Artist mobility is the foundation of artistic and creative development. We therefore underline the necessity to consider exempting artists’ and cultural players’ mobility from general discussions on mobility.
It is imperative that the young generation continues and reinforces its link to Europe. This generation, which in majority was either not yet allowed to vote or voted ‘remain’, needs to develop competencies in European languages and understand European cultures. Continued exchange is therefore important. Similarly, language teachers need to have had the possibility to study in the countries whose language they teach. These exchanges must remain widely accessible- thus not restricted to an elite who can afford them. Arts students similarly need to be offered the possibility to exchange with their peers, enhancing creative excellence and exploration, and ensuring an understanding of our common cultures and heritage.