Repercussions on Cultural Relations and Cultural Diplomacy in the UK and EU after Brexit

Could Brexit be a catalyst for bigger changes in EU cultural institutions rather than the ones in the UK?

April 26th, 2019
Danaja Antonija Volk, News from Berlin
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Belfast, Derry and Strabane were biding to host the European capital of culture in 2023. The EC decided none of the cities could host anymore due to Brexit. The council’s strategy said that the EC decision should not be seen as “the end of the journey”.

Brexit and its consequences on both the UK and EU have been greatly discussed in the past few years. Alongside the obvious repercussions Brexit can have on the variety of facets of life in the UK, culture and arts is amongst them. It has not been greatly covered by the media even though the Arts Council of England has published reports in 2016 and 2017 on the possible consequences of such actions. The UK creative companies receive approximately £40 million funds and 67% of artists and arts and culture organisations currently employ EU nationals.

Negotiations about Brexit today deal with much more pertinent questions and seem to not generate much solutions. A shortage of discussions on consequences on culture in the UK after Brexit is something one could surely anticipate and understand. Nevertheless, reports are scarce and not updated, bringing forth the question how heavily could Brexit really influence cultural diplomacy between the UK and EU and how much is being done to prevent loses in the cultural sector?

Belfast was in the running for the city of culture 2023 and had to resign due to Brexit. They have now decided to bid for the UNESCO city of music 2023. The council decided to build on the momentum it got from its running for the city of culture and strive for something else. In order to be eligible for such a status a city must prove it can host national and international music festivals and events. It must also specialise in music education and have a number of small and big venues for performances. All of projects should not be limited to one genre but include all.

Funding for such projects is now a new challenge for a city like Belfast. New strategies that do not include typical grant funds will have to be adopted. Developing new funding strategies does not have to be necessarily only considered a struggle but could open innovative debates and solutions. The difficulty with big transitions like Brexit is that quickly art and culture could be put aside and the loss of cultural exchanges will only be felt too late.

The report produced in 2016 that assesses the possible consequences of Brexit on culture focuses on the current position of the UK in order to assess likely impacts in terms of numbers and political and qualitative policy aspects. It identifies international cultural relations in terms of defined areas of activity: education, collaboration on research and innovation, cultural and creative industries, exchange programmes for young people and tourism.

The main conclusions were that young people will have negative impacts in terms of losing Erasmus+ and other exchange programmes. Mostly this will impact non-UK residents that go there to study since there is a bigger influx of foreign students in the UK rather than the other way around.

There is a possible loss of interaction between higher education systems in the UK and EU, diminishing EU’s capacity for creativity and innovation-led economic growth. Cultural impacts in terms of opportunity could potentially hurt the EU more because cultural exchanges of the UK are done in larger numbers with the English speaking world rather than the EU.

When It comes to international cultural relations and cultural diplomacy there is a risk of divergent approaches being taken by the UK and EU which could lead to competition. There is a risk of reducing collaboration between the British Council and EU National Institutes of Culture in the context of EUNIC’s role in the EU’s Cultural Diplomacy strategy.

Any sort of affirmative conclusions cannot be made based on the scarce qualitative and quantitative information we posses for now. Even though the UK would lose EU funding the UK has a developed system of cultural exchanges worldwide. It seems that maybe the EU will have to adapt more innovative strategies rather than the UK. This is an excellent example of how issues can lead faster to better strategies and consequently possibly more appropriate solutions. 


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