On 23 June, the British public will decide on the critical matter of their membership of the European Union. Culture Action Europe hopes for a “Remain” victory and calls on the artistic community in the UK to express its support for the EU.
The European project was the first such experiment in history that did not result from the victory of one culture over another. As an entity built on mutual respect and fundamental values that are at the very basis of Western democracy, it successfully managed to establish an enduring period of peace following a dark period in which national narratives played an undisputable role.
Since it joined the EU, the UK has been a constituting part of the European cultural landscape, bringing notions of multiculturalism to the European mind-set along with an openness to the rest of the world. In deciding to opt out of the Union, the UK would remove one of its cultural pillars, silence an outspoken defendant of diversity and set apart one of its most creative members. The loss would certainly be mutual, as British citizens would face the danger of cultural isolation following the reintroduction of territorial and political barriers. The imposition of punitive tariffs, the restriction of freedom of movement, lack of access to welfare, and cross border co-operation would all impact negatively on British artists. By closing the Channel, the UK would cut the cross-cultural links that are so fundamental to artistic productions on both sides.
For the British cultural sector, a split would also have a significant economic impact. Major sources of funding would no longer be available, through either the European Commission’s Creative Programme (whose culture sub-programme in 2015 supported 145 projects, 54 of which involved UK organisations); or the European Structural and Investment Funds (which plans to invest around £8.66bn across the UK in the 2014-2020 period offering significant support to the sectors’ infrastructure).
We deeply wish for the UK’s continued participation in the EU experiment to preserve the open dialogue that has helped our diverse cultural sector to flourish.