On 31 January 2020 at midnight CET, the withdrawal agreement approved this week by the European Parliament and the Council will enter into force. From that time on, the United Kingdom will no longer be a member state and become a third country.
Past midnight little to nothing will immediately change. An eleven months post-Brexit transition spell will guarantee the UK with many of the EU-membership’s benefits and obligations: British nationals will no longer be EU citizens, but they will be able to travel around the Union as freely as before; 73 British Members of the European Parliament will have to leave the hemicycle, but the UK will remain a fully integrated part of the single market. And most importantly, UK cultural organisations will be eligible to apply for Creative Europe funding until the current programme ends in December 2020. Creative Europe funding awarded during or prior to this transition period will cover the entire duration of the project, including projects that continue after 1 January 2021.
While this eleven months long “Hello-Goodbye” tune is playing, there is still time to get fit for the “new era” in the EU-UK relationship. British Council and the Creative Europe UK Desk identified the main issues UK cultural professionals should watch and advocate for in 2020:
- Negotiating non-EU Third country agreement
The UK association cannot be secured until negotiations on the 2021–27 Creative Europe programme are complete. However, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for domestic funding to substitute the role of EU programmes in developing networks and cross-border collaboration within the Cultural and Creative Sectors (CCS). In this regard, it is in the interest of UK CCS to:
- Explore the possibility of an association to the Creative Europe programme under non-EU Third country status;
- Create a UK advisory group to work with UK–EU policy makers.
In this way, the cultural and creative sector can be part of the negotiations on any future agreement between the UK and the EU in this area.
- Paying the programmes’ entry fees
Based on British Council’s analysis, there are different ways for the UK to retain access to central EU funds as a Third country, through either:
- direct payment to the EU budget for full participation in Creative Europe in the same way as EU Member States, but without voting rights (as in the Norwegian model);
- direct payment to certain components of the programmes, but also without voting rights (as in the Swiss model).
These precedents offer the EU and UK a template on which to negotiate and build a new model.
- Maintaining an active policy-shaping role:
By withdrawing from the EU, the UK will lose its seat at a very important negotiating table. This is why, informal policy-influencing capacity is one of the main instruments through which the UK cultural sector can remain actively engaged in policy-making processes. It is therefore important that the UK cultural organisations are proactive in:
- developing and transmitting policy positions at all stages of the policy development process;
- holding co-ordination meetings with CCS’ sector representatives in Brussels and EU institutions to ensure EU committees are rightly informed on national perspectives;
- maintaining a high level of sector expertise: this might involve sending the same experts for years to EU advisory committees;
- establishing influential policy-shaping structures which may include the reinforcement of a UK research advocacy body in Brussels, such as the recently created Norway Research Office, or the creation of a UK advisory group to guide UK-EU policy makers during the programme’s negotiations.