Cancel Brexit Petition Hits 3M Signatures as Art World Prepares for No Deal

Arts institutions are shipping works early to preempt delays caused by exit from European Union

An online petition calling for Article 50 to be revoked and for the UK to remain in the EU has amassed more than 3M signatures, with the rate of signing the highest the Parliament petitions website has ever experienced.

The petition website has crashed numerous times, due to the unusually high web traffic to the page. A representative from the Petitions Committee tweeted: ‘Between 80,000 and 100,000 people have been simultaneously viewing the petition to revoke article 50. Nearly 2,000 signatures are being completed every minute.’ Another tweet read: ‘we have had to make some changes to ensure the site remains stable and open for signatures and new petitions’.

When questioned in Brussels, Theresa May dismissed questions as to whether she thinks public opinion has shifted regarding revoking Article 50, saying she ‘will not countenance’ going back on her decision.

The UK art world is already preparing for the impact of a ‘no deal’ Brexit with galleries shipping works early to pre-empt delays. The British Council, for instance, has revealed that they will send works to be displayed at the Venice Biennale well ahead of time. ‘Once Brexit has happened, there will be no guarantee that the export of artworks will not be subject to intense chaos and inevitable delays,’ gallery director Stuart Shave commented.

Last year, a leaked memo revealed leading UK museums’s fears of a no-deal Brexit scenario. London’s Victoria and Albert Museum and the Natural History Museum, amongst others, expressed concerns over rising expenses of importing artworks, declining numbers of tourists and staff shortages. A V&A memo to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, dated to 4 September 2018, claimed that the museum might be forced to close its doors temporarily, as 44 percent of its customer service staff were EU nationals.

Writing in frieze in 2018, Chris Sharratt expressed concerns over Brexit’s impact on arts institutions: ‘The looming reality of a no-deal Brexit and the increasing ‘us and them’ political agenda in relation to the UK and the rest of Europe, suggests that new challenges for arts organizations and artists lie ahead, too. A recent House of Lords committee report has stressed the importance of freedom of movement to the cultural sector and proposed a reciprocal short-term ‘touring visa’ for UK-EU arts workers. Yet are calls from the cultural sector even being listened to amid the noise and confusion that surround the ongoing Brexit negotiations?’

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