Politics | Why Brexit is Bad for Culture


I, like many around me, am dismayed at what's become of the referendum result. Both of the leading political parties of the UK are extremely divided and, alarmingly, focusing more attention on in-fighting than on getting Britain through the huge diplomatic change that's brewing. However, whilst I could gladly write a post about the current state of the economy and of parliament, I decided to take a different approach and discuss culture, a topic that is also somewhat closer to my heart.

Following the result of the EU referendum, there has been an increase in xenophobic and racist attacks on immigrants across the country. Although of course not all Brexit voters were of racist intent, there has been a trend of many Brexiteers feeling justified in their xenophobia and racism, wrongfully believing that a vote for Brexit is a vote for deporting immigrants. Shocking evidence of xenophobia and racism has come to light both on the news and in this facebook post - a collection of many incidents that have taken place in the short time since the referendum result.
Xenophobia and racism are terrible for culture in a number of ways. Firstly, they themselves are part of a culture of intolerance and hatred, one that many have said reminds them of 1930s Germany. Secondly, this perceived idea of British superiority that comes with this newly intensified intolerance diminishes people's inclinations to explore other cultures.
Why does this matter?
Exploring other cultures lessens ignorance of them and allows us to discover more things and experiences we may enjoy. Limiting oneself to British culture only is at the very least, just plain boring.

Jo Griffin recently wrote an article for The Guardian, detailing that a vote for Brexit could lead Britain into an irreversible decline in foreign language learning. As native language speakers assisting at schools and teaching in language centres would now have more difficulty living in the UK, and school exchange schemes and trips abroad may become more complicated, Brexit greatly threatens multilingualism in the UK. Additionally, many universities receive EU funding through Erasmus, a study abroad scheme in Europe which encourages foreign-language learning and a broadening of cultural horizons.
Why does this matter?
As Griffin writes, "studying a foreign language is necessarily a humbling experience, forcing the speaker to listen and adapt their perspective, chipping away at those philosophical or political certainties that can be limiting, removing barriers and nurturing curiosity." Furthermore, this threat to language-learning is making Britain look like it may become more and more isolated from the rest of the world and its array of cultures, a huge set-back for globalisation.

The role EU funding plays in the arts also must not be ignored. Without EU funding, arts and culture will suffer hugely. Theatre, music and so many other forms of expression will be far harder work economically and the inclination to get involved will likely diminish.
Why does this matter?
For many people, the arts are a form of escapism, of expression, or simply of entertainment. Beyond this, the arts have for centuries been used to critique or analyse social and political issues and thus accelerate change. For example, Shakespeare's Macbeth criticised tyrannical monarchical rule, and Orwell's 1984 challenged totalitarianism, whilst in the music sector, we can see John Lennon's highly political Imagine and the anti-establishment movement of punk music in the 1970s.

So if Brexit really does mean less arts funding, less foreign language learning opportunities and an increase in xenophobia and racism, it is difficult to see a light at the end of the cultural tunnel. With the increased globalisation of the world, I feel that a diminishing British interest in foreign cultures would be a huge step backwards socially, whilst I also fear for the effects on British culture itself if arts funding suffers a set-back.


I'm sure there's plenty of other cultural issues brought up by Brexit that I've missed, so I'd love to get a discussion going in the comments! Once again, thank you all for reading :)