Petitioners are urging the government to scrap its planned ‘Festival of Brexit’ — a national event that would cost £120m — and spend the money on a Covid recovery fund.
The 2022 event was first announced in 2018 under Theresa May’s government as a means to “bring people together” after the EU referendum. At the time, May said the festival would “celebrate our nation's diversity and talent” and would be a "once-in-a-generation celebration."
However, campaigners argue that it's “wasteful” to host a multi-million-pound event whilst the country battles with the effects of the pandemic.
MP Jamie Stone , Liberal Democrats' spokesperson for digital, culture, media and sport, hopes people will support his calls to scrap the festival “regardless of how they voted in the referendum.”
"Britain's culture calamity is real thanks to Brexit, yet the taxpayer is being asked to cough up £120 million for bread and circuses,” he said.
"Frankly, I thought this Brexit festival was sick before a pandemic – but given we've got kids starving, carers suffering on a minimum wage, and millions of people out of work and locked out of financial support, well, it's testament to how skewed the Tory moral compass really is.”
The petition now has more than 5000 signatures, however, signs say the event could still go ahead.
Responding to the campaign, a government spokesperson says “Festival UK 2022 is about championing all that is great about the UK” and not "advancing a political agenda.“
"With 30 teams now working on projects for the Festival, it is already helping to create jobs and commissions for those working in industries impacted by coronavirus, and will open up many more opportunities over the next two years," they said.
"We’ve made a record investment in the arts with the £1.5 billion Culture Recovery Fund and stand ready to help with the recovery, so it’s not either the Festival or support, it’s both."
The proposed event — renamed Festival UK 2022 — is spearheaded by Martin Green, the creative brains behind the London 2012 Olympics. Per BBC News, Green has been on the hunt for "daring, new and popular" big ideas to help showcase British creativity to the world."