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Loss of free movement post Brexit will be ‘devastating’ for the arts, leaders warn

Nicholas Hytner. Photo: Helen Maybanks

A survey of industry leaders including Nicholas Hytner and Tamara Rojo warns that losing freedom of movement after a hard Brexit would be devastating for the creative sector.

Among the 50 UK cultural leaders surveyed were National Youth Theatre chief executive Paul Roseby and Sadler’s Wells chief executive Alistair Spalding, alongside performers including Lenny Henry and choreographer Akram Khan. The survey reports that 46 of the 50 believe that a hard Brexit – involving leaving the single market and ending the existing free movement rules with Europe – would have either a devastating or negative impact on the creative industries.

Conducted by think tank Global Future [1], it also found that more than 90% believe the free movement of people from Europe will be critical or important to the UK’s creative industries in the future.

More than 70% claim allowing freedom of movement of creative talent from Europe is the most important thing the government could do to “ensure the growth and vibrancy of Britain’s creative industries”. This was seen as more important than providing greater funding to the creative industries.

Farooq Chaudhry, producer at Akram Khan Company, said Britain had spent the past 20 years in a “golden age of arts and culture”, built on a platform of international collaborations.

“It would be catastrophic if this exchange were shut down. Not just to the UK but to the whole of the world. Our cultural lives will become poorer and our national well being will be diminished,” he said.

Barbican Centre Trust chair Emma Kane added: “Arts should be without boundaries; they unite rather than divide.”

Composer Nitin Sawhney said the impact would be “devastating” as it would restrict free movement of artists across Europe and have a “hugely negative impact on the perception of the UK as a multicultural hub of creativity and free expression”.

Roseby, meanwhile, described Brexit as a “clear act of self-harm” and said the cost of it should be compared to the jobs and opportunities it could be “better spent on”.

According to the survey, Britain punches above its weight as a creative force on the world stage because of its cultural diversity.

Dave Wybrow: Theatre needs to speak out now or face a post-Brexit skills crisis [2]