Director's Statement on Brexit

Director’s Statement on Brexit

David Freedberg

Direcor of the Warburg Institute

Whether in Germany before 1933, or in Great Britain afterwards, the Warburg Institute has been profoundly committed to European culture in its entirety, and to the analysis of the various non-European strands, particularly Islamic, that have formed it. The notion of any separation of cultures has always been alien to it. “Bridge-building”, Brückenbau, instead, was one of Aby Warburg’s watchwords, both intellectually and culturally. At this critical junction in the history of the United Kingdom we at the Warburg Institute take the opportunity of emphasizing our commitment to a Europe “without border guards”. This is how Warburg himself put it in the course of affirming his own intellectual and political commitments. From his earliest writings on, Warburg argued against all forms of nationalism.

Already in 1905 he dreamed of a University engaged in the battle against the forces of reaction and committed to freedom from conventional academic and nationalist constraints. 

We take the opportunity of reassuring our many colleagues, research fellows and students of European and other nationalities that we will take a stand against any efforts to constrain freedom of movement and thought as long as the Warburg Institute remains in London. We are heartened by the clear articulation of these principles also by the Russell Group, representing 24 of the UK’s leading universities in their statement of 5 July that:

Leaving the EU will have a profound effect on our universities, which have long thrived on global collaboration and international interaction – be it through European staff and students coming to our universities, or when our best researchers work with colleagues across Europe to tackle big social and scientific challenges.

Our universities have, therefore, always warmly welcomed people from different cultures, ethnicities and beliefs. Embracing this very diversity is vital to our success, fundamental to our values and enriches life on campus.

To this they added:

It is essential to remember that in terms of our global outlook, nothing has changed - we have not yet left the EU and we are just as open and welcoming to students, staff and ideas as we were before the referendum. We have already reassured current staff and students that their rights to work and study here will continue for the foreseeable future and we can still participate in cross-European collaborations and bid for EU funding.  We are already working closely with the Government to ensure the best possible outcome from upcoming negotiations and UK policy decisions for universities and the research community

We at the Warburg Institute are heartened by these firm and clear remarks, signed by the Chair and Director General of the Russell Group. We could not endorse them more.

Already on 24 June, they wrote that:

The free movement of talent, the networks, collaborations, critical mass of research activity and funding from EU membership have played a crucial part in the success of Russell Group universities. We will be working closely with the Government to secure the best deal for universities from the negotiations to come so that we can continue to form productive collaborations across Europe.

This is exactly the spirit that has always motivated the Warburg

Institute and which we shall never renounce. The Warburg Institute is and shall remain a European institution, committed to the understanding of all cultures, in all their distinctiveness, across the globe.