Blighty’s creative industries face a huge amount of “uncertainty” should the country elect to leave the European Union at its upcoming referendum on June 23, said shadow culture secretary Maria Eagle.
Speaking at a debate organised by the Creative Industries Federation at the British Library on April 19, Eagle warned that a “Brexit” (as it is known colloquially) would have a “huge bearing on arts and creative sectors.”
“Putting up barriers between people only hinders the cross-border collaboration that makes the arts and culture sectors in the U.K. as vibrant as they are,” said Eagle. “In what way could the creative industries possibly benefit by reducing their abilities to share ideas and talent?”
She noted that the creative industries continued to “punch above their weight” in the territory, creating jobs at twice the rate of the economy. She said the sector was worth more than £84 billion ($120.8 billion) to the U.K., representing more than 5% of the total British economy.
“Their success is underpinned by access to the single market, which boosts the U.K. cultural exports to £18 billion ($25.9 billion),” said Eagle. “That’s 8.7% of our total export, which is expected to rise to £31 billion ($44.6 billion) by 2020. Losing access to that could only be bad. Creative industries can’t relocate and still create British content unlike some other industries. They have to be here.”
Jude Kelly, artistic director of London’s Southbank Centre, attacked the language of the ‘Brexit’ campaigners, suggesting that the notion of leaving the EU was counteractive to the nature of artistry.
“Artists are expansionists,” she said. “They are curious. They are investigative. All the language of Brexit is quite the opposite. It’s closing down, it’s hunkering down, it’s bringing it back in again. In fact, the language of Brexit is selfish and I’m slightly ashamed of that.”
Technology entrepreneur Martha Lane-Fox, one of the founders of lastminute.com, told delegates that a vast majority of Blighty’s tech biz would jump ship if Brexit became a reality.
“Internet entrepreneurs of this country are the fastest growing percentage of start-ups and they are overwhelmingly in favour of staying in the EU,” she said. “70% of London’s fintech sector, the biggest part of the technology success story, said that they would move their headquarters if we voted to leave.”
But Harriet Bridgeman, founder of London’s Bridgeman Art Library, disagreed and said a vote to leave the EU would only strengthen the creative sectors. She said that Blighty’s £11 million ($15.8 million) contribution to the EU’s Creative Europe initiative, which offers support across the continent to the entire sector, could be plowed back directly back into the local biz.
“Creative industries emerged from the recession as Britain’s fastest growing sector, suggesting a lack of dependence on what remains an extremely troubled EU market,” said Bridgeman. “After we vote to leave, we can place strong public investment alongside entrepreneurialism and private finance will only grow.”
Meanwhile, Munira Mirza, London’s deputy mayor for education and culture, who is also in favour of ‘Brexit,’ said that the EU was “fundamentally anti-democratic.”
“If you have an unelected elite that is making decisions about your life, your business and your very way of being, you should have the right to vote them out.”