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EU treaty could threaten UK arts subsidy

Carrie Cracknell, Mike Leigh, Helen McCrory, Vicky Featherstone, Mark Rylance and Vivienne Westwood all attended the Artists Against TTIP launch. Photo: Peter Schiazza
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Actors and directors have voiced fears that new trade laws being negotiated by the European Union could negatively affect subsidised arts organisations in the UK.

Artists including actor Mark Rylance, and directors Carrie Cracknell, David Lan and Vicky Featherstone have all backed a new campaign against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), after European Commission research showed it could lead to the loss of one million jobs across all sectors.

The treaty is currently being discussed by the EU and the US. If it is implemented, trade laws between the two bodies will be aligned. However, TTIP has been criticised as it would enable multi-national companies to sue the UK government if they believe a ruling has negatively affected their future profits.

Arts leaders have raised concerns that the new agreement could lead to US theatre companies coming to the UK and demanding subsidy from the government.

Speaking at the launch of Artists Against TTIP at the Young Vic in London, the movement’s co-founder Cracknell told The Stage that the treaty could put arts subsidy at risk.

She said: “I think the scope is bigger than the artistic community, I think it will radically alter the landscape of the UK, and the whole of Europe, and our relationship to our democracy. But it will limit [the arts’] capacity to affect positive change in so many ways. And there are potentially some risks to subsidy and to copyright, which of course are going to have vast impacts on the artistic community.”

The director continued: “There is a possibility that once we’re in this binding legal agreement with the US that US artistic companies could flood into the UK and demand that they have the same right to subsidy, but we just don’t know, because it’s all happening in secret and everything’s being negotiated secretly. So we can’t see the text.”

Samuel West, who also attended the launch, raised concerns that relaxed trade laws would mean much weaker safety regulations on products used regularly in theatre, including make up.

“Free trade is masquerading here as a removal of legislation on poisonous chemicals in cosmetics, which as actors we should be concerned about,” he explained. “In the US they ban 12 substances for use in cosmetics; the EU ban 1,200. Speaking as somebody who wears make up quite often, I’m very glad I’m on this side of the Atlantic.”

Other actors at the Artists Against TTIP event included Damian Lewis, Juliet Stevenson, David Morrissey and Hattie Morahan.

A spokesperson for the EU trade commission could not be reached for comment.

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