Celebrities weigh Brexit by urging Britons to vote to stay in the European Union in the referendum on June 23. Citing cross-border collaboration and European Union funding for the arts, nearly 300 British actors, musicians and writers are asking to stay with the EU.
Writing an open letter, the signers argued that “Britain is not just stronger in Europe, it is more imaginative and more creative, and our global creative success would be severely weakened by walking away.” The letter, signed by stars including Keira Knightley, Patrick Stewart, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jude Law and Helena Bonham Carter, continued, “Leaving Europe would be a leap into the unknown for millions of people across the U.K. who work in the creative industries, and for the millions more at home and abroad who benefit from the growth and vibrancy of Britain’s cultural sector.”
The Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle and the British poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy added their names to the celebrities Brexit list, as did the authors Hilary Mantel, Philip Pullman and John le Carré.
The letter was immediately described as an intervention by “the luvvies,” a satirical term borrowed from Private Eye magazine to describe Britain’s self-enamored stars. But there is serious money at stake. John Sorrell, the chairman of the Creative Industries Federation, said, “We benefit from a vast network of talented people, companies and institutions across Europe.”
Sorrell said creative industries had contributed 84 billion pounds, or about $122 billion, to the British economy. Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, who supports staying in the bloc, has promoted the findings of a survey by the Creative Industries Federation showing that 96 percent of its members wanted to remain in Europe.
John Kampfner, the chief executive of the federation, said that Brussels had provided seed funding to films like “Slumdog Millionaire,” “The Iron Lady” and “The King’s Speech.”
Creative Europe Desk UK, a European Union liaison to arts funding in Britain, suggests that the bloc has made grants worth 40 million euros, or about $45 million, to British groups in the past two years. For the European Union as a whole, Creative Europe said, there is €1.46 billion available from 2014-20 to support European art projects and encourage skill sharing and development.
Many cross-border collaborations to fund films and television programs are made easier by membership in the single market of the European Union, and it is easier for British artists to work in Europe and vice versa.
Political interventions by stars are not always welcomed by voters. In last year’s Scottish referendum, the “Harry Potter” author J. K. Rowling met with significant hostility when she came out against Scottish independence and helped finance the “no” campaign.
Michael Caine, the actor, has come out in favor of Britain’s leaving the union, as has Roger Daltrey of the Who.