EU Citizens as Bargaining Chips

pexels-photo-105470Virginia Mantouvalou, Reader in Human Rights and Labour Law and Co-Director of the UCL Institute for Human Rights, looks at the implications for Brexit on the rights of EU citizens living in the UK in relation to the European Convention on Human Rights.

A few days after the referendum on EU membership of the European Union, Theresa May stated that she would not guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK. Her statements were supported by Philip Hammond, then the Foreign Secretary, who said that it would be ‘unwise’ or ‘absurd’ to guarantee rights of EU citizens to stay in the UK before negotiating with other Member States, and were also repeated in Parliament by James Brokenshire, the junior Home Office Minister. Mr Brokenshire was prepared to be slightly more reassuring, but only went so far as to say that there will be ‘no immediate change’ in the legal status of EU citizens in the UK. Many condemned this position as morally repulsive and politically problematic. In this piece I argue that the stance of the UK Government on the status of EU citizens in the UK may violate the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). European human rights law does not permit the treatment of people as bargaining chips. Continue reading

The EU referendum and some paradoxes of democratic legitimacy

27678701211_6125a9b158_zIn parliamentary democracies referendums generate alternative, competing sources of legitimacy. This has been clearly demonstrated by the EU referendum result, with the public voting to Leave despite a clear parliamentary majority for continued membership. Nat le Roux, Strategy Director of The Constitution Society, discusses this paradox and suggests that it would not be unreasonable for some MPs to choose to vote against the invocation of Article 50.  

In a parliamentary democracy, referendums are potentially destabilising because they generate alternative, competing, sources of democratic legitimacy. A majority of elected representatives may hold one view on a matter of major national importance. If a referendum demonstrates that a majority of the public hold the opposite view, which manifestation of democratic legitimacy should trump the other? Continue reading

What role will parliament have in triggering Article 50 and shaping the terms of Brexit?

13702284943_a43335d328_zConstitutional lawyers have been engaged in a major debate over whether parliamentary authorisation is needed for Article 50 to be triggered and the process of negotiating Brexit to formally begin. In this post, the UCL Constitution Unit’s Robert Hazell and Jack Sheldon move the discussion on, asking how parliament might debate the triggering of Article 50 and, once it has been triggered, what role parliament might play in scrutinising the negotiations that follow.

There has been an outpouring of blog posts discussing whether there is a legal requirement for parliamentary authorisation before the Prime Minister can trigger Article 50 and start the formal negotiations to lead to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. However, it is probable that regardless of the legal position, the political realities will require some form of parliamentary consent. This post moves the discussion on, to ask in what ways parliament might debate the triggering of Article 50, and, once it has been triggered, what role parliament might play in scrutinising the Brexit negotiations that follow. Continue reading

Does Eastern Europe have lessons for Brexit Britain?

27678701211_6125a9b158_zSeán Hanley, Senior Lecturer in Comparative Central and East European Politics at UCL, examines lessons learned from historical political change in Central and East Europe, and asks whether any parallels can be drawn with post-Brexit Britain.

In the aftermath of the EU referendum a number of Central and South East Europeanists wrote blogs reflecting on possible parallels between Brexit and break-ups of multinational socialist states like Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia in early 1990s.

There are certainly parallels to be drawn.  They lie, as Catherine Baker notes, often in the political dynamics of exiting a large multi-national structure: the desire of smaller nations (Scotland) to ‘exit the exit’; the woes of asymmetric federalism, where nations ina multinational union have varying degrees of autonomy; the changeable nature of public opinion; the EU as a symbol of modernisation and liberalism (the ‘March for Europe’, and the normalisation of  radical positions through by media coverage – and now social media ‘echo chambers). Continue reading

Roman oratory and the EU referendum campaigns

ciceroIn addition to marking a politically decisive moment in British history, the campaigns in advance of the referendum on the UK’s membership in the EU were exciting objects of study for Classicists in terms of the political use of oratory, writes Gesine Manuwald, Professor of Latin at UCL.

In addition to marking a politically decisive moment in British history, the campaigns in advance of the referendum on the UK’s membership in the EU were exciting objects of study for Classicists in terms of the political use of oratory. This applies in particular to students of the oratory of the Roman Republic, mainly the orations of Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 BCE), as such scholars tend to have a specific perspective on contemporary speeches and argumentative techniques, shaped by their experience of the ancient world; they are also often interested in comparisons as these can be illuminating both ways. Approached that way, the campaigns and the strategies used turned out to display all sorts of unexpected parallels between rhetorical argument in Republican Rome and present-day Britain. Continue reading