In the past two weeks the topic of the EU referendum and the result in favour of Britain leaving the EU has been discussed by archaeologists all over the world, as people consider how the decision is likely to impact them, their professional lives, and the wider structures of state and society.

At this point in time it is impossible to know exactly what will happen, but CIfA – having listened to its members and consulted with its board of directors – have produced the following short statement on the institutes’s position, responsibilities, and outlook on Brexit and beyond.


Responding to archaeologists’ strong feelings about the referendum on UK membership of the European Union, the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA) wishes to emphasise its status vis-à-vis nations, states and unions.

CIfA is the leading professional body for archaeologists. Its accredited members have agreed to subscribe to the Code of conduct and to follow its Standards and guidance. This obligation applies wherever they live and work, as does their requirement to comply with all relevant legislation and regulations. CIfA therefore operates without national borders: it is not and never has been a UK institute. While the majority of its members practise in the UK, and the attentions of the Chartered Institute are hence focused there, a growing cadre is based elsewhere (we are distributed across 32 countries).

CIfA does not have formal position on the UK’s membership of the European Union: that is a matter for the constituent parts of the UK and the EU to resolve through appropriate democratic processes. CIfA commends the thoughtful analyses of The Archaeology Forum and the Heritage Alliance of the potential impacts of a separation.

CIfA’s Board of Directors has reaffirmed its commitment to working with archaeologists from around the globe to promote professional standards and ethical behaviour, to maximise the benefits that archaeologists bring to society. One of the great benefits that archaeologists offer is the power to help different people understand the great variety of cultures and traditions of humanity, to recognise how civilisations can thrive on cooperation and how conflicts can arise where cooperation is absent, and to realise how socio-economic problems are generated within societies as often as by outsiders.

Above all, archaeology shows the mobility of our species. We are all of migrant stock: some have travelled from choice and in hope, others from danger and in distress. All have left their mark on the environment; and researching that mark through archaeology shows how these new peoples flourished or faded, whether their cultures stayed separate, integrated and retained their heritage or were absorbed almost without trace. The knowledge of how societies have adapted to and benefited from interactions between peoples helps us understand why the world is as it is today and gives us privileged insights into how to handle some of the challenges and chances it faces. Those challenges are very noticeable in today’s Europe, just as there have been magnificent examples of generosity and hospitality.

The job of work for archaeologists to do will be discussed in depth at CIfA’s next annual conference: CIfA2017 Archaeology: a global profession, to be held 19 to 21 April 2017, at the University of Newcastle  http://www.archaeologists.net/conference/2017. CIfA will also take an active role at the annual meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists later this year.