February 2021

No Brexit in maritime heritage

On 31 January last year, the United Kingdom left the European Union. That was the day Brexit was consummated. Personally, I don't hide it, I would have preferred the UK to have remained, but my opinion is of little importance. The British citizens decided and their decision should be respected.

I bring the topic here because some doubts and anxiety have been raised about the possible consequences of Brexit in many areas, including cultural heritage, about which the exit agreement was completely silent. From the consequences for the funding of heritage restoration and maintenance projects to the implications for the trade in heritage assets and objects of cultural interest, it is still too early to be able to assess the impact of this historic transformation properly.

However, when it comes to promoting maritime heritage, which is the aim of the EMH association, the effect, perhaps surprisingly, is to further stimulate the collaboration and sharing. Our British friends see the interest in participating in an organisation and sharing knowledge with counterparts from EU countries, and the latter acknowledge the importance of UK’s role and contribution to European maritime heritage as a whole.

That is why the EMH will continue to deepen cooperation and launch joint projects with the Maritime Heritage Trust (national member of the EMH) and National Historic Ships (associate member of the EMH) and, with their support, expand participation in the EMH to more UK members. The common interest is to enhance the representativeness of maritime heritage within the wider cultural heritage.

The Brexit experience had the virtue of reminding us all that the concept of European heritage goes beyond the countries that are part of the European Union, so it is expected that in the coming years new members from European countries outside the EU will join the EMH. Organisations from countries such as Iceland, Russia, Ukraine or Turkey, to name but a few, may join the EMH in the future. They belong to a geographical and historical Europe, which goes beyond its contemporary political dimension.

in 2021 we will be attaching the greatest importance to the reflection on the concept of “maritime heritage”, what it is, what it includes, what it excludes, how it should be formulated and interpreted.   Inspired by the name of our own association, the "European" element of the concept will also be discussed with the aim of spelling out a new policy of expansion and membership.

There is Europe beyond the European Union in maritime heritage.

João de Almeida

President of the EMH

Past True Bearings:

January 2021