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“The State we’re in”: Brexit Britain on the cliff edge (BiE in discussion with Will Hutton)

Goldsmiths’ Britain in Europe (BiE) thinktank experts will be in conversation with one of Britain’s foremost economic and political commentators, Will Hutton, on the “state we’re in”, with Brexit, and how to avoid jumping off the cliff.

(January 29, 18.30-20.00)

Theresa May’s “EU withdrawal agreement” has been emphatically rejected by Parliament, and Britain is heading for the cliff edge.

Why has a deal that has taken more than two years to agree, and was providing practical solutions to a vast range of post Brexit complications – from the protection of EU citizens’ rights, settlement of UK’s financial obligations towards the EU, offering a transition period and a temporary solution on the Northern Ireland border, to drawing the framework for the future relationship, including a free trade area for goods, an economic partnership extending to services, investment, transport, energy and fishing, and continued security cooperation – failed so blatantly to gain support, from either end of the Brexit political spectrum?

“Remainers” may have justifiably seen in the EU Withdrawal Agreement an imperfect solution that provided far less protection, far less scope for collaboration, than current EU membership does. They may therefore have been strengthened in their conviction that nothing short of (finally) staying in the EU is going to be a convincing alternative to the status quo. But why did Brexiteers “despise” Theresa May’s deal, and what is the alternative they had to offer? Not “no deal”, surely. Between 550 to 570 MPs strictly oppose “no deal”, estimates Dominic Grieve QC MP.

Would extending Article 50 make sense at this stage, or should we now find the courage to come to terms with the near universal truth that the “Brexit process” has failed and revoke Article 50 altogether; the European Court of Justice has said the UK can do so unilaterally. But the clock is ticking.

Considering the many pitfalls of the above, can a second referendum now emerge as the only viable way forward? And if those who believe in Brexit have the “will of the people” at heart, why would they oppose such an option? Shouldn’t the people ultimately decide how we leave the EU (if they still believe we should do so)? Or is the risk of further social division so heightened that we should avoid a second referendum at all costs? And wouldn’t leaving on catastrophic “no deal” terms create further social division (and worsen the economic divide) itself?

Goldsmiths’ “Britain in Europe” experts will be entering in conversation about the above with Will Hutton, one of the most prolific British commentators on the political and economic life of the country, and Brexit of course.

Will Hutton is the Principal of Hertford College, Oxford. He is a political economist, author and columnist with a career that spans investment banking, BBC radio and TV, newspapers, consultancy, leading think tanks and heading up government commissions.

After six years in the City, he launched his career in journalism as economics editor for the BBC’s Newsnight and later for The Guardian. He went on to become editor of The Observer in 1996, for which he still writes a regular column. From 2000 until 2008 he was CEO of The Work Foundation, stepping down to work as its part time non-executive vice chair. He co-founded the Big Innovation Centre in 2011, which has become one of Britain’s leading innovation think-tanks, soon before joining Hertford College. He has made numerous TV documentaries for the BBC and Channel 4.

Will’s best-known book is probably ‘The State We’re In’ (1995), which was seen at the time as defining a new British economic and social model (that was only very partially developed by the Blair governments), and was one of the top-selling books on political economy since 1945. Since then he has published the best-selling ‘The State to Come’,  ‘The Writing on the Wall: China and the West in the 21st Century’, ‘Them and Us’ and ‘How Good We Can Be’, published in February 2015.

His latest book, written in conjunction with Lord Andrew Adonis, ‘Saving Britain: How We Can Prosper in a New European Future’ was released in June 2018.

Will headed up a government Review of the Creative Industries in 2007, and on Fair Pay in the Public Sector in 2010/11. He chaired the Independent Review on University fees between 2011 and 2014, and is currently co-leading the BBC’s review on pay transparency.


Britain in Europe is an independent, multi-disciplinary, thinktank, based at Goldsmiths University of London (Law). Britain in Europe members produce original research and influence public policy, offering a platform for evidence-based evaluations of Britain’s interactions with the EU and its institutions.

(Published 19 January 2019)



Goldsmiths Law announces collaboration with global law firm Winston & Strawn LLP

A view of the City, from Winston’s London offices

The Goldsmiths Law programme is very pleased to announce a collaboration with global law firm Winston & Strawn LLP, which will offer our students unique insights into the world of corporate and financial law.

A group of 2019 Goldsmiths LLB Law applicants, and students in the Goldsmiths Progression Scheme, will be  given the opportunity to visit Winston’s London office, meet legal experts there and be introduced to key aspects of their work.

Winston is a Chicago headquartered law firm with global reach, serving as an adviser and advocate, for over 160 years, for clients across virtually every industry. Their offices are located in London, Paris, Brussels, Dubai, Moscow, Hong Kong and Shanghai, and across the United States. Their work engages a full range of clients including major corporations and financial institutions, and they have an active pro bono programme which advises worthy clients without charging. Winston’s growing London office is in the heart of the City, where they advise clients on a wide range of acquisitions and other corporate transactions and the financing for those transactions (including project and asset-backed financing).

Goldsmiths Law will be shortly announcing a detailed programme of visits and events.


Photo story from our symposium at the British Academy: the ECHR’s impact in the UK


27 November 2018, 9 am. An early start, at a wonderfully festive British Academy, for our Knowing Our Rights symposium on What has the European Convention on Human Rights ever done for the UK. The symposium offered an opportunity to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Royal Assent of the Human Rights Act (9 November 1998).

Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos (Goldsmiths), opening up the symposium: Knowing Our Rights’ aim is to raise awareness of, and empower our young people to engage with, fundamental human rights in the UK. Our engagement with sixth formers across London and the UK serves this purpose […] The symposium will allow us to take stock of the impact of the ECHR in the UK.

The first panel explored equality, privacy and freedom of expression.

Prof Colm O’Cinneide (UCL): Article 14 has proved to be more important than had been widely assumed at the time of the HRA’s enactment. In contrast, the common law has always been equality-light – and discrimination legislation has no special constitutional status.

from left to right: O'Cinneide, Kagiaros, Johnson, Petley and Amos, discussing right to life, freedom of expression and sexual orientation equality

from left to right: O’Cinneide, Kagiaros, Johnson, Petley and Amos, discussing the right to life, sexual orientation equality, the right to privacy and freedom of the press.

Prof Paul Johnson (York), discussing sexual orientation equality in the UK: Establishing that “gay rights” are “human rights” in the UK, by means of the ECHR, has often been a long, hard struggle […] It is easy to forget that the legal protections people take for granted today were so hard fought, and so recently fought […] The ECHR system is vital to ensure that gay men and lesbians complete the journey to full legal equality.

Dr Dimitrios Kagiaros (Exeter) on Art 8 ECHR and state surveillance of private electronic communications: The ECHR ensured that the United Kingdom’s surveillance regime would be subject to the rule of law and, following the enactment of the Human Rights Act 1998, individuals could seek redress for violations of rights perpetrated by the services before UK judges.

Prof Julian Petley

Prof Julian Petley (Brunel), reflected on the British press’ anti-juridicalism, how it has been extended to Europe and the ECHR, and why ECHR matters in providing protection against the press snooping on our private lives.

The second panel discussed the right to life and freedom from torture. Dr Natasa Mavronicola (Birmingham): Art 3 ECHR is a leading light in the elaboration of what the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment demands as a matter of international law […] Those who are demonised, stigmatised, marginalised, or otherwise ‘othered’ in Brexit UK are better off with Article 3 than without it. Prof Merris Amos (QMU) on Art 2 ECHR: The ECtHR’s development of the positive duty to protect life has done an enormous amount for UK victims and families – an important example of what can be achieved when a state set in its ways is forced to adopt and adapt to international standards.

from left to right: Prof Merris Amos, Shoaib Khan (SMK solicitors and HRLA) and Dr Natasa Mavronicola

The symposium brought together human rights scholars, domestic and international legal experts, as well as a number of sixth form students, including from Brighton & Hove Sixth Form College and Varndean College in Brighton.

The next panel focused on liberty, fair trials and freedom of religion. Dr Ed Bates (Leicester): The right to liberty and the safeguards surrounding it would traditionally be regarded as a rock solid feature at the core of the UK legal tradition […]. A number of examples, however, demonstrate that the ECHR has subjected the common law to some doses of common sense.

Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos (Goldsmiths), on the effect of Art 6 ECHR on police investigations and the pre-trial phase: ECHR jurisprudence has reinforced UK human rights guarantees indispensable to a fair trial, such as the right to custodial legal assistance and wider privilege against self-incrimination or the right not to be subjected to unlawful entrapment, and came to the support of the common law in prohibiting the use of third party torture evidence. At the same time, the Court exhibited the ability to accommodate more idiosyncratic elements of domestic criminal procedure, even where it might a priori appear difficult to square them with the Court’s raison d’etre, as the guarantor of fundamental human rights; its jurisprudence on drawing adverse inferences from the exercise of the right to silence offers a good illustration.

Prof Javaid Rehman, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, addressed freedom of religion and ECHR jurisprudence.

In addition to illustrating the wide-ranging effect of ECHR case law in the UK, the symposium changed its perspective, to look from the reverse angle, at how UK case law had affected the development of ECHR jurisprudence.

Eleanor Hourigan, the Counsel to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, took a historic perspective as her starting point: Many of the ECHR’s provisions are inspired from UK common law principles e.g. the right to a fair trial or habeas corpus; the UK had played an active role in all Council of Europe bodies working on the Convention, heavily influencing their operation and thinking through participation in debates and discussions on the functioning of the system; and UK lawyers take many cases to Strasbourg, so the UK reasoning is frequently heard and understood there […] There are also significant opportunities for more or less structured exchanges between ECtHR and UK judges, and judicial dialogue in the form of judgments of course, which improve judicial mutual-understanding.

Clare Brown, from the department of the execution of judgments at the Council of Europe, spoke about the UK’s implementation record, asking whether it had been a successful example of shared responsibility for the Convention.

Andrew Cutting, at the Council of Europe, intervened via twitter to point the symposium towards a new CoE resource illustrating the ECHR’s impact across Europe, with a number of examples taken from the UK.

Philip Leach (Middlesex), who was scheduled to speak on the right to life, and whose flight from Strasbourg was unfortunately delayed, also intervened via twitter, with a quick message of support for the ECHR.

The symposium came to an end with a keynote address by Prof Conor Gearty (LSE), on ‘States of denial: what the search for a new Bill of Rights tells us about post-Brexit rights protection’. The keynote speech was chaired by Goldsmiths Visiting Professor in Law, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC.

A big thanks to the Human Rights Lawyers’ Association, and Mr Shoaib Khan, for supporting the symposium, and ongoing collaboration.

The Knowing Our Rights research project feeds into the LLB Law programme at Goldsmiths, including the Human Rights Law (with Goldsmiths’ Human Rights Clinic) module in the final year of the degree. Students undertaking this module have the opportunity to participate in Knowing Our Rights research events, undertake relevant human rights research and participate in human rights workshops in sixth forms across London, among other activity.