Figures show how Brexit is stripping cash from the arts

PUBLISHED: 12:00 01 November 2018

The British Museum will see a fall of roughly £11.5m between 2016/17 and 2019/20

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Brexit is stripping cash from the arts with government funding for some of Britain's most iconic museums plummeting since the referendum, The New European can reveal.

Figures released under Freedom of Information laws show that eight out of 16 government-sponsored museums have seen their grant in aid funding fall since 2016/2017.

12 of the 16 will see their funding fall between 2016/17 and 2019/20, with just three retaining the same level of funding and only one getting an increase.

Anti-Brexit campaigners have claimed that cash is being directly set aside for the departments for Brexit and International Trade as the government seeks to prioritise the UK's departure from the EU.

Eloise Todd of Best for Britain, the group which is campaigning for a People's Vote on any final Brexit deal and which obtained the figures, said they "reveal the cultural damage that would be left by Brexit".

Among the worst hit is the British Museum, which will see a fall of approximately £11.5m between 2016/17 and 2019/20, equivalent to 21.5% of its funding.

The Imperial War Museum will see a drop of around £12.4m over the same period, equivalent to approximately 38.5%. And the Natural History Museum will suffer a fall of roughly £7.3m, equivalent to around 14.9%.

In addition, the V&A will see funding fall around £3.1m between 2016/17 and 2019/20, around 7.7%. The drop follows two years - 2014/15 to 2016/17 - in which its grant in aid funding grew by almost £9m, or 29%.

The news is a further blow for the museum just a day after it warned it faced a bill for £25m due to new import taxes on exhibits, potentially threatening the viability of major exhibitions. It said it faced a cut in visitor numbers and was fearful of staff shortages.

Its director, the former shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt, told London's Evening Standard: "The big one for us is how a no-deal Brexit would affect putting on exhibitions and taking our exhibitions around the world.

“Our ability to hold blockbuster exhibitions while having to pay import duties would be really problematic.

“Our ability to promote British soft power and influence through exhibitions like David Bowie Is and Pink Floyd would be seriously compromised.

“That’s bad for the London visitor economy. Four in five visitors to London come for the culture, and they are drawn by great museums and world class exhibitions. It is also potentially damaging for British influence abroad.”

Ms Todd said: "The arts provide an invaluable contribution to Britain economically and culturally, with institutions like the Imperial War Museum and the Natural History Museum enriching our understanding of our own history and the world around us.

"Every day Britain's museums and galleries are teeming with school children, interested visitors and others hoping for a glimpse of what they have to offer.

"We should be proud of the world-class exhibitions put on by museums and galleries across the UK, and it's a crying shame that they will have crucial funding stolen away from them to cover Brexit's ever-growing costs.

"It's no surprise to see the fall-off in funding coming straight after the year of the referendum, with money being reappropriated from the arts to departments like DExEU and DIT as the pounds slumps and the economy slows.

"Consequences like these are exactly why we need a people's vote on the government's Brexit deal, with the option to rethink and stay in the EU. Only then will the public be able to compare it properly with our current bespoke deal and judge what's best for Britain."

The Tate Gallery, which, like the V&A, has seen its funding increase in recent years, will see its government income fall by around £2.6m between 2016/17 and 2019/20, a drop of 6.9%.

Visual arts more widely will fall by roughly £5m from 2017/18 to 2018/19, with a drop of 11% from 2017/18 to 2019/20.

A number of Britain's flagship museums, including the V&A and the Natural History Museum, warned yesterday they feared they would be forced to scrap major exhibitions after Brexit.

The only government-funded museum to see an increase over the period is the Geffrye Museum, a series of period room displays in East London.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has been contacted for comment but has yet to respond.

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