Withdrawal from the EU would lead to "suffering" in the creative industries, according to an open letter signed by 220 thought-leaders in the literary world, including award-winning authors Ali Smith and Granta editor and Max Porter, winner of the International Dylan Thomas Prize.
The letter, organised by independent press Peirene, a specialist in translated fiction, and signed by publishers, agents, scouts, translators and academics, argues that EU membership aids "cultural exchange". The letter is supported by m.d.s of publishing houses including Andrew Franklin of Profile Books, Jane Aitken of Gallic Books and Adam Freudenheim of Pushkin Press.
It maintains the "isolationist step" of leaving the EU would be "a step away from our own heritage", with freedom of movement directly impacting the free movement of ideas. The letter also defends the EU for its investment in UK arts and culture with €40m of grants given over the past two years, helping 228 organisations in the space. It also credits the UK's "closer relationship with Europe" for the rising number of book translations.
It reads: "Raising barriers at this time when mutual understanding is so important is dangerous, culturally and ideologically.
"Brexit would mean jeopardising cross-cultural institutional relationships dependent on the free movement of people and goods, as well as EU funding initiatives. It would be an existential threat to our island’s identity as an active, outward-looking cultural leader."
However, while the letter has also attracted signatures from book journalists Fiammetta Rocco, books and arts editor for the Economist and Boyd Tonkin, formerly literary editor for the Independent, as well as The Bookseller's own editor Philip Jones, it has struggled to make itself heard in the mainstream press. Publication of the letter was refused by the Economist, the Sunday Times, the Times Literary Supplement, and the Guardian, according to a blog by Meike Ziervogel, publisher at Peirene Press, who said it revealed "a shockingly weak stand" from creative and media industries on the EU referendum.
"Any responsible newspaper should shout from the rooftops that writers, publishers, academics – leaders in thought and imagination – are for staying in," Ziervogel said. "They should print letters like ours that go beyond the argument of money and migration and show the danger of an isolationism."
The industry is further invited to make itself heard by participating in The Bookseller's EU referendum survey, which closes for responses on Wednesday 15th June.