British cultural heritage diplomacy post-BREXIT

British cultural heritage diplomacy post-BREXIT

A strategic consequence of BREXT which appears to have been almost entirely overlooked, is that post-BREXT, Britain will cease to have any influence in shaping European cultural heritage diplomacy. Since ‘soft’ power is a strategic tool in international relations and British Foreign Policy, then post Brexit, as the UK makes its own way in the World, what is our policy?

Without a coherent and practical plan Britain is likely to fall behind the rest of Europe because the EU have recently placed cultural relations at the heart of international relations, and are evolving a unified strategic policy.

What are we doing?

EU international relations policy

On 8 June 2016, the EU High Representative and Vice-President Frederica Mogherini and Commissioner Navracsics put forward a proposal to develop an EU strategy to support international cultural relations. The aim was to put cultural cooperation at the centre of the EU’s diplomatic relations with countries around the world.

In February 2017, the ministers’ deputies adopted the Recommendation CM/Rec(2017)1 to member States on the ‘European Cultural Heritage Strategy for the 21st Century’, which was officially launched in Limassol, Cyprus in April 2017. 

On 6 April 2017 the Council of Europe (CoE) launched their “European Cultural Heritage Strategy for the 21st century” at a high-level conference in Limassol (Cyprus) in the presence of senior policy makers and stakeholders from CoE member states. The Strategy 21 pursues an inclusive approach and involves not only local, regional, national and European public authorities, but also all heritage stakeholders including professionals, (I)NGOs, the voluntary sector and civil society. The Strategy is a state of the art document inspired by the efforts the Council of Europe in shaping the heritage policies of many European countries and repositioning them.’

See also:

·       ‘Cultural heritage in EU policies: ‘

·       ‘European Heritage Strategy for the 21st Century’ :

·       ‘Toward an EU strategy for international cultural relations’’:

·       ‘A new strategy to put culture at the heart of EU international relations’:

·       ’Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers to member States on the European Cultural Heritage Strategy for the 21st century’:

·       ‘Cultural heritage in EU discourse and in the Horizon 2020 programme’:

In May 2019 the Berlin Policy Journal observed,

‘The EU’s principal values of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law are being challenged both internationally and within Europe itself, by populist governments. Faced with such threats to its cultural identity, the EU needs to respond, including by cultural diplomacy.

The international system is undergoing rapid change. Power is shifting from Western states to rising powers; Russia and China are working to discredit civil and political rights; populists are eroding democracy by stealth; and America appears to be losing interest in upholding the liberal international order. The European Union, whose principal purpose is to protect human dignity by means of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, finds itself increasingly challenged in the realm of ideas.

Faced with threats to its cultural identity, Europe needs to mount a cultural response. EU member states have long practiced cultural diplomacy as a form of “soft power,” and EU ministers have stated that culture must also be an integral part of the EU’s international relations. Under EU law, cultural policy is primarily a national competence, but the EU may support it, including in foreign affairs.

For many years the European Commission has subsidized mostly short-term cultural development projects in various regions of the world. However, it has set neither geographical nor thematic priorities, and current spending patterns do not amount to an integrated strategy. In practice, the EU operates not one, but three foreign cultural approaches that reflect the geographical and budgetary logic of the relevant Commission Directorates General, with one responsible for culture, another for development, and a third for relations with the EU’s Eastern and Southern neighbors.

Links with the EU’s foreign policy priorities are tenuous. The European External Action Service, the EU’s diplomatic and foreign service, is short of cultural expertise and largely depends on the commission to fund external actions. Fragmented, under-resourced, and lacking a sense of direction, EU cultural diplomacy is in need of reform. Foreign cultural policy should be integrated with other policy domains, including human rights, development, and citizenship.’

The UK faces the same geopolitical reality and challenges as the EU. However, as we diverge from the EU will we co-operate or compete in applying soft power through cultural heritage diplomacy?

While counter-intuitive, realpolitik requires co-operation in order to compete, e.g. to enjoy equal market access. That is a paradox of BREXIT, because in the real world before e.g. China, India, and the United States can conclude, ratify and implement an FTA with the UK, they must know the extent to which the UK remains integrated with the EU. Otherwise, how can they evaluate preferential access and agree terms? Therefore, the UK must first conclude a trade deal with the EU. Since trade negotiations are linked to existential issues that are the raison d’etre for the EU as a community, the question we need to ask ourselves is not ‘who are we?’ (i.e. what is our tribe), but ‘what is our community?’ (i.e. who are our strategic partners). The answer to the second question is the natural policy imperative that will shape our future relationship with Europe and the rest of the World. Therefore, our cultural heritage policy can be a foundation stone in building a bridge between post-BREXIT Britain, the EU, and the rest of the World, or it can cast us adrift from continental Europe, and suffocate the negotiation of trade deals.

What is the UK’s Cultural Heritage Policy in the event of a no-deal BREXIT? Is there a strategy?

See also:

· ‘BREXIT & Heritage’ – Report ESRC Funded Workshop (July 2017):

· ‘UK to end creative Europe participation post-BREXIT’ (March 2020): 

No-deal BREXIT

A no deal BREXIT is almost certain unless the UK agrees to an extension (which the EU have offered and the Government have rejected).

‘If negotiators fail to reach a deal, the UK faces the prospect of trading with the EU under the basic rules set by the World Trade Organization (WTO).

If the UK had to trade under WTO rules, tariffs would be applied to most goods which UK businesses send to the EU. This would make UK goods more expensive and harder to sell in Europe.

Having WTO terms would also mean full border checks for goods, which could cause traffic bottlenecks at ports.

And the UK service industry would lose its guaranteed access. Qualifications would no longer be recognised and it would be much harder for workers to travel to the EU.

This would affect everyone from bankers and lawyers, to musicians and chefs.’

Brexit: What trade deals has the UK done so far?:

The political calculation the Government is making is comparable to spinning the wheel in a game of roulette.

To Sanjay Raja, an economist at Deutsche Bank AG, a no-deal Brexit would halve the pace of growth next year to 1.5%. The U.K. in a Changing Europe, a research group, estimates gross domestic product could be crimped by 8% over 10 years as trade barriers and a reduction in productivity hit output.

“It may be less politically costly for the U.K. to do no deal in the midst of a pandemic, but economically I’m not sure about that at all,” said Jonathan Springford, deputy director of the Centre for European Reform. “It might be that they’re able to get away with it — but I don’t think it changes the view that no deal would impose quite sizable economic costs.”

Intergroup Inc. says the size of the shock could even force the Bank of England to take the controversial move of cutting interest rates below zero because fiscal policy and other tools may not be enough.

The additional debt firms are carrying will make adjusting to Brexit more difficult, according to Alan Winters, director of the U.K. Trade Policy Observatory at the University of Sussex.’