Issue 119/02, 01.02.2019
Is the museum sector prepared for Brexit?
As Museums Journal went to press, the UK was still scheduled to leave the European Union on 29 March. But with the actual form Brexit will take still unclear, museums are grappling with issues that have an impact on the sector such as the free movement of people, tourism, the future of EU cultural funding and the Northern Ireland border.

01112016-alistairAlistair Brown, policy officer, Museums Association

“Is anyone prepared for Brexit? The scale of political confusion means that it is anyone’s guess whether we’ll have a withdrawal agreement by 29 March. We should certainly be worried about the prospect of No Deal, which will have huge social ramifications, as well as creating specific problems for our sector: in importing and exporting loans; ensuring the rights of European staff members; and attracting visitors from the continent.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport has been helpful in providing technical information on these issues to museums, but we’re still little wiser about what we’re supposed to be planning for.”

01022019-comment-vp-victoria-pomeryVictoria Pomery, director, Turner Contemporary, Margate

“I’m not convinced that anyone is really prepared for Brexit. Only now is the government putting contingency plans in place.My hope is that the museum and gallery sector can help to bridge the huge divisions that exist in British society. To do this, museums and galleries need to be flexible and creative – both areas in which the sector excels.

Brexit has already brought uncertainty, anger and frustration to many individuals and communities. This is an opportunity for us to reach out to new audiences and for the sector to make a real difference.”

01022019-comment-vp-paddy-gilmorePaddy Gilmore, freelance museum consultant

“Just over 78% of the people of the Foyle constituency in Northern Ireland voted against Brexit – one of the highest remain results in the UK. Like Foyle residents, Irish museums have developed a clear understanding of the ramifications of the referendum. While high-level advice exists for public bodies, no specific plan is in place for museums.

Sector calls for a Brexit audit have been ignored, so normal operational planning in museums is taking into account potential funding, policy and planning risks. The desire to continue with constructive relationships will not diminish, however, so I am optimistic about ongoing all-Ireland cooperation.”