Monday, 30 May 2016

Should we stay or should we go?

European Union
Source Wikipedia

A very interesting debate has taken place on BalletcoForum on "how is leaving or staying with the EU going to affect the arts?" The thread has now been locked by one of the moderators but before the discussion was closed down one of the subscribers referred to an article by the arts writer Jessica Duchen entitled I'm IN, and here's why you should be too 25 March 2016 Jessica Duchen's Classical Music Blog.

Duchen gave a number of compelling reasons for remaining in the EU:
  • British musicians will lose their treaty right to perform in other parts of the EU and EU musicians will lose their right to perform here with the result that "quality levels will most likely drop and career prospects for UK musicians will be unnecessarily hobbled";
  • If British artists had to obtain work permits or visas to perform in the Schengen area logistics will be more complicated and costs will rise;
  • many of our employment rights derive from EU legislation:  "Take those away and the pro-Brexiters left in charge will get rid of your rights faster than you can say Emmeline Pankhurst";
  • British students will lose their right to study in countries like Germany where there are no tuition fees; and
  • it will be harder and more expensive to travel to concerts and other performances in the EU if sterling falls and the advantages that have been achieved by the Commission's intervention such as cheap fares cease to be available to us.
And the advantages of leaving? 

"In the interests of 'balance'," writes Duchen "I've been trying to think of one advantage for the music industry of leaving.
"I've come up with....
Nothing. Null. Nix. Nada. Nul points. (Oh, right - perhaps if we exit Europe we would have to leave the Eurovision Song Contest. That would be an advantage because the British entries are usually so embarrassing.)"
Duchen's views are shared by 96% of the members of the Creative Industries Federation including Deborah Bull and Andrea Stark, chief executive of High House Production Park in Thurrock where the Royal Opera House's Bob and Tamar Manoukian Production Workshop is located (see David Cameron Meets the Fed as Members Vote Remain May 2016). Andrea Stark writes:
“Our new costume centre would not have been possible without support from the European Regional Development Fund - crucially it unlocked the other funds necessary to make this development happen. The Bob and Tamar Manoukian Costume Centre will house costumes for Royal Opera House productions, and a new BA (Hons.) degree course in costume construction will be delivered from the centre’s bespoke workrooms.”
Duchen mentioned a letter to The Guardian signed by 300 historians (see Lessons from history for the Brexiters 24 May 2016) although I have to say that I am more impressed by the views of 600 British economists:
"Poll shows 88% of 600 experts fear long-term fall in GDP if UK leaves single market, and 82% are alarmed over impact on household income" (see Economists overwhelmingly reject Brexit in boost for Cameron 28 May 2016).
Or, indeed, the view of The Economist itself (see The Brexit Delusion 27 Feb 2016).

There is a contrary argument (other than xenophobia) based on the contention that the EU is too inward looking, too bureaucratic and decreasingly important in a world in which trade will gravitate increasingly towards East Asia and that we can run our economy better and secure better access to the markets of China, India and other countries outside Europe through our own efforts than in concert with our continental neighbours.  I see some force in that argument but at the end of the day it is a matter of judgment and on the balance of probabilities I think it is wrong. Though I have formed my view independently, I draw comfort from the fact that it coincides with that of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Governor of the Bank of England, the Managing Director of the World Bank, the President of the United States and all the other luminaries from around the world who have weighed into the referendum debate on the side of Remain.

Nevertheless, I would vote Remain even if the economic arguments were stacked the other way. I have been inspired by the European ideal ever since I was a child. One of the sources of that inspiration is a common European culture. That culture is expressed through literature, music, painting and, of course, the performing arts. In particular the art of Terpsichore, which evolved in the courts of renaissance Italy, was codified in 17th century France, refined in Paris, Copenhagen and St Petersburg, conveyed to England by the Ballets Russes and now flourishes in theatres, opera houses, studios and even draughty gyms and church halls the length and breadth of the United Kingdom.

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