Arts sector reacts to Brexit

As the news of Brexit slowly sinks in more voices from the performing arts sector speak out on the impact the dramatic decision might have in the UK and abroad.


ISPA (International Society for the Performing Arts)

‘I woke up this morning (24 June) to the distressing news that more than 52 per cent of UK voters opted to leave the European Union.  This decidedly isolationist stance is partly in response to the fear mongering with respect to border control and immigration as well a perception of a lack of control over self destiny. Sadly, it also feeds into Donald Trump’s agenda on this side of the Atlantic but that deserves a separate discussion.

Almost 30 years ago, ISPA began holding annual congresses in cities around the world. Increasingly our membership has grown to reflect the diversity that is our global village. I believe what unites many of our members is the belief that we need to work together.  A recognition of an interconnectedness, a knowledge that what impacts one region will ultimately impact other regions.

Today’s challenges are global and there is no doubt that yesterday’s vote in the UK is a huge step back in the face of these challenges.  The refugee crisis, the global economy, climate change, terrorism, all of these problems and many more require a coordinated and unified response and action.  It is hard to imagine today wanting to stand alone in the face of these sometimes overwhelming realities.

I can’t help but think back to ISPA’s New York Congress in 2006 and the subsequent congress in Durban in 2008 where the theme of Ubuntu was celebrated.  Loosely translated, it refers to humanity and the concept of “we”.  It also brings back the proverb, If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.

To the 48 per cent of voters that chose to remain in the EU, know that there are countless people around the world that stand with you.’ David Baile, CEO, ISPA.




‘We at HarrisonParrott are deeply committed to the idea that our business and our lives benefit immensely from the fact that our artists and our staff share such a diverse range of nationalities, languages and cultures, and we take great pride in the success of our open and internationally inclusive recruitment policy.

‘The power of music and the arts is universal. It brings us all closer together in a creative and non-discriminatory way, which can only benefit society as a whole.

‘All of us involved in the Arts and Creative Industries must now do whatever is possible to heal these self-inflicted wounds.’ – Jasper Parrott, executive chair of HarrisonParrott.


National Campaign for the Arts
‘The vast majority of those working in the cultural sector backed a vote to Remain. We are now very concerned about our ability to access important European funding, such as the €1.3bn Creative Europe programme. But the implications for the arts don’t end with money. There are a host of other issues that we must address over the coming months: international artistic exchange, export of cultural products, copyright, visas and access to training in European centres of excellence, to name just some.

‘This is already a tense time for the arts in Britain, with many organisations across the country anticipating significant cuts from their Local Authorities this autumn. We call on the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to do everything in his power to ensure that there is no further damage to the sector as a result of yesterday’s vote.

‘This has been a hard-fought and difficult campaign. Now more than ever the arts need resources and support to allow us to play a role in bringing communities back together and to continue to fly the flag for British culture.’ – Samuel West, chair of National Campaign for the Arts.

Askonas Holt

Askonas Holt
‘Yesterday’s decision by the United Kingdom’s electorate to leave the European Union will take time to digest – but it will take much longer to understand and deal with the consequences. I believe I speak for the vast majority of my colleagues here at Askonas Holt, and for the vast majority of the artists and institutions with whom we work, in saying that we are saddened and frightened at the prospect of what lies ahead, and by the lack of clarity that faces us. In my view, ‘Remain’ did not adequately celebrate all that the EU has achieved over the decades: not just in terms of peace and social inclusion, but also in recognising the importance of culture and of investment in the arts. I am particularly struck by the fact that 75% of voters between the ages of 18 to 24 voted to remain in the EU – these people are our future.

‘But this is democracy in action, and we have to respect the UK’s decision. We now need to understand the mechanisms of leaving; how and when this will take effect. There are questions which need to be answered as we plan for the years to come in terms of visas, work permits, tax treaties and all the practicalities of our business. We are already planning concerts and tours that, theoretically, will take place well after the UK will cease its membership of the European Union. We also need to understand how we can ensure continuity of employment for all our fantastic staff – which includes citizens of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and other EU nations – and that we can continue to search for top administrative talent beyond the borders of the UK. We will work with our colleagues across the industry to get clarity on these issues as soon as possible, so that we can plan for the future with confidence.

‘As this nation faces years of negotiation and wrangling with the EU, maybe we will once again discover that the arts offer precious opportunities to build bridges and cross borders, reminding our European neighbours that the UK remains open-minded and open for business.’ – Donagh Collins, chief executive of Askonas Holt 


Musicians’ Union
‘We suspect that this will be very bad news for musicians. Over the years MU members have benefited from open borders, a protective copyright regime and various directives which directly benefit them in their workplaces. We will no longer be able to jointly campaign with our former EU colleagues, nor will we be able to take part in the EU social dialogue committees on live performance and audio-visual. We must prepare for the introduction of border controls with the possibility of work permits and/or travel visas for musicians working in Europe. My initial reaction is one of profound depression, we will certainly have to be vigilant over the next crucial few months.’ – John Smith, general secretary of the Musicians’ Union.


Incorporated Society of Musicians
‘We are concerned about the potential impact on musicians as a result of Britain voting to leave the EU.

‘However, it is important to remember that for the immediate future, existing laws and agreements relating to EU membership remain in place. We encourage the Government to ensure our members and indeed the music sector as a whole can continue to work and perform in Europe as of whatever new agreements are put in place.

‘For the meantime, as the professional body for musicians the ISM will continue to support our 7,500 members in all aspects of their work, and we urge musicians with specific questions to get in touch directly.’ – Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians.


Arts lawyers Boodle Hatfield
‘Art law is a key part of the Boodle Hatfield practice. We believe that the immediate economic aftermath of the vote will have a significant impact on all aspects of the art market for some time, including both current auction sales and consignments to future sales in the next few months. 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. Our Arts team specialists will be monitoring closely what happens to museum and arts funding, the future of the Artist’s Resale Rights, possible changes to export licenses, and to import VAT.’ – Sara Maccallum, senior partner at Boodle Hatfield.