Brexit and music

Philippe Thanh 30/06/2016

The shockwave produced by the results of the British referendum - that seems, strangely enough, to have surprised the supporters of Leave as much as those of Remain - has produced echoes in the cultural and musical world, especially on social networks, the first to respond.

Nothing more natural: Music knows no borders. Long before the construction of Europe, the continent had always been crisscrossed by composers going from capital to capital presenting their works, and by soloists awaited for long tours. Certain names immediately come to mind: Lassus, Handel, Mozart, Paganini, Liszt... among many others.

Today, for young musicians, Europe is the natural scene to live and work. How many French students were able to study in London, or elsewhere in Europe, how many British students did the same in French and German conservatories? All thanks to the Erasmus program, one of the great successes of European integration.

The musical world will be affected all across Europe, but it is of course by our British neighbours that the consequences of secession will be the most strongly felt.

First, because Europe supports culture in the UK, via the "Creative Europe" program, to the tune of eleven million euros (2014-2015 figures). Aid that benefits many institutions in the country, but mainly the two London opera houses: Covent Garden and the English National Opera. And that doesn’t include what the European Structural Fund contributes. Certainly the UK, by leaving Europe, will no longer contribute to the budget of the latter. But will the UK re-allocate a portion of these savings to its musical institutions?

Then, because the hiring of British musicians in France may become more complicated - at least administratively - if they are not nationals of the European Union. The British Association of orchestras is well aware of this; on the day the result of the referendum was announced, they warned against the consequences of the Brexit for touring musicians and orchestras in Europe (The Strad, June 24).

However, once the initial moment of stupor has passed, we must remain reasonable. The UK exit negotiations will be long and complex. No one, to date, knows what the status of England will be vis-à-vis the countries of the European Union. But it will obviously require no more of a visa to play in London than it requires in order to play in Switzerland today.

And to end on a light note: you want to help a musician friend to retain his European passport? Marry him!

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