The future of Britain’s cultural relations with European Union member states

Researching Brexit’s impact on the UK arts sectors and a possible strategic response.

The challenge

UK and EU flags flying in front of Big Ben

Tom Fleming Creative Consultancy (TFCC) is a leading international consultancy for the cultural economy, offering strategy and policy leadership across the creative, cultural and arts sectors. Through research, evaluation, collaboration and advocacy, the company offers technical expertise, strategic thinking and the tools to position culture and creativity to the heart of society.

The EU has been a vital organ of solidarity and investment across the cultural system of the UK. However, Britain’s withdrawal from the EU means that the country, and its artistic and creative sector, must adapt to the next context. Britain’s withdrawing from the EU is likely to have manifold impacts on the health, confidence and sustainability of the UK arts and cultural sector: emotionally, strategically, and financially. With Brexit, the EU stream of revenue will disappear, and institutions need to find solutions to make up for this loss (new economic models, new networks among institutions etc.). This is particularly challenging given the additional impact of COVID-19 on the sustainability of many cultural organisations and individual practices. 

This project aims to offers stakeholders and the media new insights on intercultural relations across Europe and how partners might react to the current, ever-changing situation as negotiations on the future UK-EU relationship are ongoing. The conclusions will be valuable to partners because there is no recent report on the matter and will allow TFCC to share learning with partners and clients across Europe, which will in turn enhance its position as a key strategic consultancy and research organisation in this field.

The solution

The project has three main objectives to address the challenge:

  1. To collect qualitative data on the existing knowledge about the impact of Brexit on the UK cultural sector.
  2. To review strategies that institutions have already implemented, to assess them, and make policy recommendation for the sector.
  3. To identify the right kind of questions that the sector should be asking and thinking about as Britain leaves the EU.

The research will be based on a preliminary scoping research exercise, based on policy analysis of existing reports and practices, followed by interviews of key stakeholders, such as government agencies, national galleries, foreign cultural institutes based in the UK (e.g. the Goethe Institute, the Institut Francais etc) and European agencies in charge of cultural relations among EU member states.


This research provides very illuminating evidence on the impact of Brexit on the confidence, connectivity and ambition of the UK and European arts and cultural sector. It sets out some vital questions and provides astute analysis. It has been a pleasure working as a partner to the process.

Dr Tom Fleming / Director, Tom Fleming Cultural Consultancy.
  • The project proved that cultural relations between the UK and EU member states benefitted communities in the UK and Europe. It highlighted important questions that institutions should engage with when planning for the period after the end of the transition period, and simultaneously made suggestions of good practice and policy recommendation.  
  • The project thus aims to shape the international relations of UK arts organisations once they are no longer be eligible to lead EU-funded projects after December 2020.  
  • The report has highlighted the community benefits of inclusive strategies and audience participation, when arts organisations decide to address questions on difficult topics (including politics). 
  • Findings will contribute to broader public attention to little-discussed consequences of Brexit for the arts sector.  

Research Lead 

Dr. Charlotte Faucher, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in History (University of Manchester, School of Arts, Languages and Cultures)

In the media  

Arts After Brexit study warns of two-year cultural hiatus in UK
The Guardian, 17 November 2020

Culture organisations face potential ‘artistic hiatus’ in EU partnerships due to Brexit
The University of Manchester newsroom, 17 November 2020

Brexit could cause two-year cultural hiatus
Arts Professional, 19 November 2020

UK arts institutions facing two-year ‘hiatus’ post-Brexit
The Stage, 20 November 2020

Le Brexit appauvrira les échanges et la diversité des productions
Le Soir, 26 November 2020

The culture shock after Brexit
UK in a Changing Europe, 3 December 2020

The Arts after Brexit
Policy@Manchester, 3 December 2020

Affaires Culturelles
France Culture, 14 December 2020 

Brexit and the arts: why the battle isn’t over for this beleaguered industry
The Standard, 14 January 2021

Back to the 1930s? After Brexit the UK arts sector is longing for links with countries in continental Europe
History & Policy, 26 March 2021

Read the report

The Arts after Brexit: The impact of the UK's departure from the Europen Union on its cultural relations with European Union member states


This project was completed in 2019-20 as part of the Collaboration Labs programme, created by REALab, with funding from the ESRC, the NWCDTP and the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures at the University of Manchester.