Harry Shearer, the voice of Ned Flanders, Mr Burns and Principal Skinner, set to leave The Simpsons

Mr Burns (left) and Harry Shearer Credit: Ian West/PA Archive

The Simpsons is now officially set to continue for a 27th and 28th series - but possibly without the voice actor behind some of its most familiar characters.

Harry Shearer, 71, who has been with the show since it started in 1989, and who provides the voices of many of its key characters, this morning tweeted a quote from his producers lawyer that the show would go on without him.

Shearer, the voice behind Principal Skinner, Kent Brockman, Mr Burns, Waylon Smithers, Ned Flanders, Reverend Lovejoy, Otto and many others, seemed to suggest that the show's longtime producer James L Brooks had let him go because he wanted to work elsewhere.

Shearer has done plenty of additional work in the past, notably as Derek Smalls in This Is Spinal Tap.

Two other voice actors on the show, Phil Hartman and Marcia Wallace, both died, but Shearer's departure would be much more devastating, simply because he voices so many of the characters.

The show's ratings have declined significantly in recent years.