Well, let's get into the fray by first declaring an interest:
I am a EU citizen working in a British University, that is, one of those awful 'economic migrants' that came here for the job, taking it away from someone British. And it is a University professor's job these days, so I'm currently probably taking away two jobs that could have gone to British archaeologists.
That said, it might also be worth stating that in all likelihood, I would have gotten the job even if Britain were not in the EU, since I am one of these desirable, high-skilled economic migrants that politicians everywhere in the world want to attract to their countries, because people like I allegedly provide a 'brain gain' that is ultimately beneficial for our host country. Not that I have been made to feel particularly welcome lately by the ongoing debate, but I guess I deserve that.
Anyway, you say there appears to be nor moral high ground. I would care to disagree, and not for, what I think, is purely self-serving reasons, but because I think there is a moral high ground.
Ultimately, the question here must be: is EU membership beneficial for archaeology?
And the answer is clearly, yes it is.
Not because it brings 'us' British archaeologists (and yes, I dare to count myself as a British archaeologist these days, seeing that I have been working in British archaeology, paying taxes here and also having lived here for the better part of my adult life) money. That is a nice side-effect of having EU research funding on top of British research funding, but that matters very little; leaving aside that I can't bear having every bloody debate reduced to pennies these days. But rather, this is for a whole plethora of entirely non-monetary reasons that are not self-serving at all.
Let's start with the real benefits for archaeological research: not only is it much easier to go to academic conferences across all of Europe these days than it was before 'we' were part of the EU, it is also much easier to do actual fieldwork in other European countries, the archaeological labour and knowledge exchange 'market' is much more open, you can go to any bloody European archaeology - which incidentally are way cheaper than going to a British Universities while virtually always offering at least as good a service - and do any degrees there, because your British degrees are recognised automatically as equivalent to any degree from any other European University. It is much easier to go on research or teaching exchanges, much easier to do internships across all of Europe, and so on, almost ad infinitum. All this benefits archaeology immensely, because we can, much more freely and easily as we could before, exchange ideas, knowledge, insights, can get access to research resources much more easily, and generally immensely benefit from that free flow of knowledge.
Just to highlight shortly in a mini-case study what it means to not have those freedoms: a young Serbian colleague of mine - a promising PhD student who has a strong interest in British archaeological thought - last year wanted to attend the EAA conference in Glasgow. She had everything sorted: her paper had been accepted, she had flights and a hotel booked, and - isn't that great - the Serbian government even gave her a grant to go to that conference, even if it wasn't to pay for all, but only parts of her costs. Yet, what a shame, she needed a Visa, and guess what: her application was rejected because some Walter Mitty considered her Serbian government grant - which she had duly noted on her application she was in receipt of - as 'paid work in the UK'. Thus, no attendance of EAA Glasgow for her. Incidentally, I have recently read the paper she wanted to give, in a session I attended and was looking forward to hear it. Shame she couldn't give it, because it was really good. But hey, who the hell cares, as long as we keep those awful Serbian economic migrants out of this hallowed island.
I could list quite a few more such examples. Now imagine the same would happen if British scholars could no longer freely travel to other EU countries, but would need to get Visas, which could, of course, be refused for equally ridiculous reasons. Or would no longer be able to get field research permits from the heritage authorities in the countries they would like to do their archaeological research in, because its protection is in the 'national interest' of the respective country and thus cannot be entrusted to evil foreigners? That is no fictional example, just to make that clear: several European countries have heritage laws that allow to exclude foreigners from being granted permits, or at least can be interpreted that way; and indeed were interpreted that way in the past. You're British and want to dig in Austria? I think not, let Austrian archaeology be done by Austrians alone (and, well, EU citizens, since we must treat them equally to our own nationals).
And while we're at it, let's turn to those awful EU regulations, like the EIA directive. Of course, that had no impact on how archaeology is done in Britain, because British archaeology was always best served by the British government, and will always be best served by the British government, as the current Tory government is so effectively proving these days. That EIAs must be conducted is not a given, and EIAs were not always done. Rather, they must be done these days because there is an EU directive that cultural heritage must be included in environmental impact assessments. And, guess what, they must be done in roughly the same way across all of Europe, even in countries that didn't give shit about their archaeological heritage and protecting it in the planning process before. Which, ah, is good for the protection of archaeology. That this has the beneficial side-effect that, rather than the archaeology simply being destroyed without any investigations being conducted, developers need to pay for the archaeological examination of sites they plan to trash, and indeed pay us professional archaeologists for doing that, is of no consequence in that regard. Trust me, I come from a country where, other than by EIAs, archaeology is still not part of the normal planning process, so I know how much archaeology gets trashed by development without any archaeologist getting a chance to even look at it, let alone be paid for recovering it before it is trashed. In my home country, greenfield development currently eats up c. 70 square kilometres a year, or about 22 football pitches a day. Guess what archaeological damage is caused by this if archaeology isn't considered in the planning process, as it still isn't.
I could continue almost ad infinitum with this, listing benefits that the EU has for archaeology, including, not least, British archaeology. But I won't, since if you don't get it by now, you'll never get it, because you don't want to get it.
So to make a long story short, the point is: if you want the best for archaeology, there is only one way to vote in the referendum. That even applies if the only archaeology you're interested in is British archaeology, and don't give a shit about any other archaeology anywhere else in the world, including that of the other parts of the EU.
That is the moral high ground in archaeology, if you are looking for any.
PS: and see what CIfA just posted on FB: The Archaeology Forum has produced a short briefing on what the EU means to the archaeology sector. Read it here: https://t.co/WzKJwkHAxg
Yr Athro / Prof. PD Mag.Dr. Raimund KARL FSA FSAScot MCIfA
Athro mewn Archaeoleg a Threftadaeth / Professor of Archaeology and Heritage
Prifysgol Bangor University
Adran Hanes, Hanes Cymru ac Archaeoleg / School of History, Welsh History and Archaeology
Fford Coleg / College Road
Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 2DG
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From: British archaeology discussion list [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Highland Heritage
Sent: 26 May 2016 11:00
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [BRITARCH] Archaeologists for Britain in Europe
So it appears there is no moral high ground - only the mercenary cry "Perhaps Leave would care to explain where EU-funded projects or post-docs (e.g. Marie Curie) would receive their grants from instead? "
Are we indeed a parcel of rogues in a nation, bought and sold for EU gold?
Or have we long sold our virtue to development that we in our hearts oppose - have we taken windfarm money? (yes I have - know anyone who refused on principal?) - green field development watching briefs? Will any one refuse to cross protest lines when the fracking gravey train starts to roll?
But remember, it will only take the stroke of a polititian's pen to end developer funding - and my gut feeling is that day is not far off - so who will then throw the grant fed dog a bone?
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