Economic fall-out of Brexit will impact museums, warns MA

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 24.06.2016
Cultural bodies express deep concern after referendum result
The Museums Association’s director Sharon Heal has warned the immediate economic fall-out of Britain leaving the EU could have consequences for the museum sector.

After yesterday’s historic referendum, which saw 52% of voters choose Brexit, economic experts anticipate a period of turmoil and uncertainty.

Heal said: “It remains to be seen what the impact of leaving the EU will be on culture and museums. There has been an immediate economic fall-out and that could have consequences for the sector.”

She called on UK museums to maintain and build upon their relationships with colleagues in Europe and elsewhere. “Museums could do a number of things whilst waiting for the dust to settle. It will be important to continue to work with our partners internationally - in Europe and further afield - we have much to learn from our colleagues globally and much to share,” said Heal.

“And we can foster conversations in our museums here. For example immigration was clearly a huge issue in the referendum and many people have questions doubts and fears on this subject. Museums are ideally placed to host these conversations with their local communities.”

Other cultural stakeholders have also expressed concern about the implications of the result. Stephen Deuchar, director of Art Fund, said: “As the national fundraising charity for art, the Art Fund is deeply concerned at the impact leaving the EU will have on culture in the UK, and particularly on its museums and galleries.

“At one level there is obviously now great financial uncertainty - the effect on European funding streams for the arts, for example  - but quite as important is the potential effect on the spirit that drives a myriad of international partnerships in the arts. These are driven at heart by the principle of Britain as a collaborative component of, and participant in, a vibrant European culture. We must work hard to keep this spirit alive, regardless of politics.”

John Kampfner, the chief executive of the Creative Industries Federation, said: “As the UK creates a new identity and a new position on the world stage, our arts and creative industries - the fastest growing sector in the economy - will play an important role.

“It will be vital for all sides to work together to ensure that the interests of our sector on issues including access to funding and talent are safeguarded as the UK forges its new relationship with Europe. The importance of British culture in representing our country to the world will be greater than ever.”

“After a campaign that highlighted deep social, geographic and economic divisions, the role the arts can play will be significant. Within the UK, we will play our part in helping to bridge divides within and between the nations and regions of the country.”

Solicitor Becky Shaw of the law firm Boodle Hatfield, which specialises in art law, said: “EU funding for the arts runs into millions of pounds a year, and has contributed to many important projects.  Whilst the UK government will continue to support the arts, it is not unreasonable to expect a complete reassessment of how the arts in the UK are to be funded in the longer term.”

The referendum result is likely to usher in months of political upheaval. The prime minister David Cameron announced today that he will step down shortly to ensure a new leader is in place ahead of the Conservative Party’s conference in October.

He will leave it up to his successor to trigger Article 50, the two-year process of leaving the EU, meaning that the UK is likely to officially end its membership of the union by approximately October 2018.

This page will be updated as more comment from the culture sector comes in. Museums Journal will publish a full analysis of how Brexit will affect the UK’s museum and culture sector in due course.