THE congregation of an 11th-century church in Essex are struggling to cope with a consequence of Brexit: the PCC of St Mary’s, Maldon, have been forced to abandon plans for a new organ because Britain is leaving the European Union.
When the church’s old organ was last played in 1987, the 80-strong congregation commissioned a firm in Bavaria to build a new organ. They spent ten years raising the funds for the €245,000 instrument.
Now, they have had to abandon hopes of buying it, because of fears that VAT may be placed on the sale after Brexit. “The builders can’t complete the organ before March 2019,” the director of music at St Mary’s, Colin Baldy, said.
“We can’t take the risk of being slapped with 20-per-cent VAT. We could claim that back currently, but we won’t be able to after Brexit.” The church feared that Brexit would mean an extra £50,000 on the cost of the new organ. “That’s a lot of money,” Mr Baldy said.
Concerns were raised that the PCC members would become responsible for finding the extra money. “We couldn’t take the risk,” Mr Baldy said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that this has happened to us because of the decision to leave the EU. The blame must lie at the feet of David Cameron, who called the referendum.
“It shouldn’t affect our church, but it already is. I’m extremely disappointed. It’s totally disastrous.”
Now, the church, which is known for its choral tradition, has opted to buy a second-hand organ instead.
The chairman of the British Institute of Organ Studies, Dr Alan Thurlow, said that he was “sorry” for the church. “There’s a continuing love of organs in Britain. There are lots of people who love hearing the organ.” But Brexit might create “healthy competition” between British and European firms of organ builders, he said.
There is still a thriving organ-building industry in the UK, where between ten and 15 organs are built annually.