Comment: A Cultural Brexit
We hear daily updates about what Brexit means for the financial and political climate, but what about the cultural effects of Brexit? The effects of culture may not be easy to see at first glance, but its roots go much deeper and are interweaved into our daily lives.
Our language is littered with influence from the continent, it's in the art in our museums, the literature we read and music we listen to - all the places where we seek enjoyment we find unbreakable ties to Europe. It’s a crucial cross-sectional place for society to freely express ideas, so why is Britain eager to put a limit to it?
Cultural programmes such as Erasmus have enriched our culture. However, this European exchange programme is now in danger of seeing England excluded; forcing a bitter end after nearly 30 years of enrichment to nearly 200,000 UK students. Furthermore, this year alone we have received nearly 15,000 EU students who have ensured the UK’s learning environment is culturally diverse, vibrant and exploratory.
Creative Europe is another significant initiative funded by the EU. Formed in 2014, it's aimed at promoting growth in our cultural and creative sectors. We should be particularly thankful to their media subsector which funded £830k into Danny Boyles' Slumdog Millionaire.
What’s ironic is that the arts is about inclusion and openness, yet Brexit means exclusion and isolation. It’s not only a cultural limitation but also a limit to our scientific development. Horizon 20 is just one programme contributing to the £1billion a year that British research receives. The programme is the biggest European funded initiative dedicated to research between 2014 and 2020. Unfortunately, in a post-brexit climate many of our EU-UK partnerships and such initiatives as Horizon 20 are now up in the air and under question due to what’s seen as Britain’s unpredictability.
The benefits of our openness and free movement have been displayed throughout history; the 18th century European grand tour for example. Finding inspiration in Italian ruins and beauty of the Swiss Alps, this period brought artistic and literary delights to Britain; including Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein and the Romantic paintings of Turner and Constable.
We wouldn’t be at our current stage of advancement without this interconnected history of influence. Our cross-cultural collaborations are still seen across Europe - particularly in the wealth of art fairs across the continent. In the annual gatherings of the European heavy weights of the art world, what are the chances Britain's participation will continue? Much is dependent on custom barriers and import/export tax changes which the UK are yet to establish. Will we be left out of the loop?
Most recently, new research into the myth of Van Gogh’s ear saw a UK historian, living in France, travelling between Paris and Amsterdam to get to the bottom on this art world's mystery. Without her freedom and ease of movement, the truth she uncovered of his self-mutilation would not have occurred.
What makes Europe so interesting is its rich collective history, yet the individuality of each region. Each country prides itself on its food or art, yet it is our differences as well as similarities that define each culture. We have a lot waiting on the UK’s Brexit agreement and until it’s been decided, our future relationships, collaborations and research are all on hold. Let it not stop us from remaining culturally tied to the continent.