UK Art World Warns Boris Johnson Over ‘Extreme Damage’ of No-Deal Brexit

As Johnson becomes prime minister, a new open letter from the Creative Industries Federation has urged him to support the arts

Boris Johnson, Conservative Party Headquarters, 23 July 2019. Courtesy: Getty Images; photograph: Dan Kitwood

Boris Johnson, Conservative Party Headquarters, 23 July 2019. Courtesy: Getty Images; photograph: Dan Kitwood

An open letter from arts lobbying organization, the Creative Industries Federation, to newly elected prime minister Boris Johnson, has urged him to support the country’s creative sector, and rethink his Brexit commitments. The letter has warned of the destructive consequences of exiting the European Union without a deal, as well as the damage that proposed immigration restrictions would have on the UK art world.

Creative Industries Federation CEO Alan Bishop wrote: ‘Alongside many other industries, we will continue to stress the extreme damage that would be caused by a no-deal Brexit. The free movement of goods, services, capital and people have underpinned the sector’s success, and we urge all the leaders of the UK’s political parties to support a second referendum rather than crash out of the EU’.

Bishop also emphasized the importance of public investment in culture through Arts Council England and the Creative Careers Programme: ‘The extent to which public investment in the creative industries underpins this success cannot be overestimated. In addition to enabling work with important intrinsic value, public investment into the UK’s arts and culture delivers social, reputational and economic returns throughout the creative industries and beyond.’

The letter underlines the crucial role that diversity plays in cultural success, warning that ‘there are concerns that the devaluing of creative education alongside an immigration system that restricts access to vital international workers will threaten the pipeline of exceptional creative talent.’ It cites a proposed minimum salary threshold as ‘far too blunt an instrument’ for assessing the value of non-UK workers: ‘More than 80% of our members would face challenges if they were unable to hire such EEA workers on salaries below GBP£30,000.’

Johnson was named the new leader of the Conservative party on 23 July, and will take up the office of prime minister on 24 July. During his campaign, Johnson promised that the UK would leave the EU on 31 October with or without a deal with Brussels. Since his election as Tory leader, several leading UK artists have voiced concern of his fitness for prime ministerial office, including Jeremy Deller who suggested that the only person to benefit under his tenure would be ‘[the man] himself’.

Earlier this year, Arts Council England issued a guide to arts organizations and museums advising them on how to cope in the event of a ‘no-deal’ brexit. It highlighted disruption that might be caused to exhibition production and touring, the end of EU funding and the consequences of the proposal to end freedom of movement.

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