Our Head of Law, Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, taught a greatly engaged group of Yr 11-13 students, about the European Convention on Human Rights and governmental threats to repeal the Human Rights Act.
Goldsmiths students taking the Human Rights Law module (with Goldsmiths’ Human Rights Clinic) in year 3 of the LLB Law programme have the opportunity to participate in the delivery of human rights workshops to schools across London.
Other activities offered to LLB Law students in this context include researching human rights jurisprudence, blogging, participation in research events and the production of short human rights videos.
Students accepted in the clinic will also have the unique opportunity to work alongside barristers or solicitors specialising in human rights adjudication. They will research relevant topics such as immigration, housing, data protection, and will advise clients, under supervision, on the human rights dimensions of their cases. Students will be introduced to general principles of clinical legal education and ethics, and related skills, such as client interviewing and legal drafting.
Moreover, students will participate in Human Rights mooting competitions such as ELSA’s annual European Court of Human Rights Mooting Competition.
Amidst the political drama coming from Westminster in recent weeks, the issue of citizens’ rights after Brexit now seems to have been nearly eclipsed from public debate. But it is precisely these citizens (EU citizens in the UK, and UK citizens in the EU) who stand to be affected the most – their lives in some cases shattered – as a result of the political chaos Brexit has brought upon the UK.
Having been treated as simple “bargaining chips” in the Brexit negotiations for nearly two years, EU citizens in the UK and the British in the EU now seem to be completely forgotten, entirely ignored, as we approach the end of this tortuous process, with the potential loss of their rights in a “no deal” scenario being seen more or less as “collateral damage”; “No Deal – No problem” seems to be the approach taken by those wishing to take the UK in this direction, as illustrated by the synonymous hashtag on social media.
The supporters of the latest slogan – in this fight of slogans – cannot make a valid claim to giving much thought to the fate of the five million citizens caught in the Brexit conundrum.
On 12 February 2019, a Goldsmiths Law/Britain in Europe thinktank roundtable event, in partnership with the Brexit Brits Abroad project, took stock of defeats and victories in the continuing battle to safeguard citizens’ rights after Brexit, and looked into the difficult path ahead.
The event brought together academic experts from a range of disciplines, NGO experts, legal professionals and members of advocacy groups and civil rights organisations which have taken an active part in the debate on citizens’ rights after Brexit.
The event attracted interest from outside academia, with those attending including BBC World News Presenter, Kasia Madera, a researcher at the Department for Exiting the European Union and others.
Head of Goldsmiths Law, Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, opened the event, providing a chronology of the legal and political fight over EU citizens’ rights, from the Government’s initial “bargaining chips” approach after the Referendum to finally enacting – a whole two years after the Referendum – the “Settled Status” legislation.
In his concluding observations, Prof Giannoulopoulos stressed how the human rights threats inherent in Brexit were particularly pertinent to EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU.
Dr Michaela Benson, Reader in Sociology, Goldsmiths University of London and Director of the Brexit Brits Abroadproject then followed, describing a damaging state of precariousness for UK citizens in the EU, taking examples of British citizens that engaged with her research as part of her research project.
“The lives of some British in the EU have been built around the freedom to move freely in the EU”, she added, a freedom that is by no means guaranteed after Brexit.
You can watch highlights from Prof Giannoulopoulos’ and Dr Benson’s in the following video.
Dr Marie Godin, a Research Fellow at the Institute for Research into Superdiversity at Birmingham University, highlighted the three choices that EU citizens seem to be left with after Brexit: a) settled status; (b) UK citizenship or (c) leave the country – and they’re facing difficult dilemmas regarding all of these.
Prof Brad Blitz, Director, British Academy Programme, Tackling Slavery, Human Trafficking and Child Labour in Modern Business; Professor of International Politics, Middlesex University, argued that the removal of EU citizenship as a result of Brexit could be deemed a violation of Art 8 ECHR, as he had argued in a recent ‘Open Democracy’ piece.
Tamara Flanagan OBE, Head of projects, New Europeans, elaborated on the wide range of New Europeans initiatives since before the Referendum, including working with the European Parliament, UK MEPs, academics and the London Assembly. She also thanked Universities for research in this area.
Prof Charlotte O’Brien, of the University of York, and director of the EU Rights Project, noted characteristically that “damage to EU citizens was inevitable” and that “the UK Government’s prior treatment of EU citizens”, for example in relation to benefit claims, “clearly showed the risks involved” for their protection in the future.
“Transition always causes rights to be left behind, and Brexit is the mother of all transitions”, she concluded.
Dr Adrienne Yong (City University) explained that “Settled status” was good”, but “only if you were the ‘perfect citizen’”, highlighting how the criminality threshold for deportation was being lowered, and EU citizens faced significant risks of deportation.
Prof Tamara Hervey, Jean Monnet Professor of EU Law at the University of Sheffield, spoke about “emergency” healthcare rights. These will not be lost even in “no deal” scenario, she explained, to the extent that these rights came from the domestic legislation of the EU27.
But she also pointed out that there was significant lack of awareness regarding healthcare rights after Brexit, and that it was therefore difficult to expect citizens to be able to exercise these rights.
On a sunny afternoon in February, a group of young A-level students participating in the Goldsmiths Progression Scheme enjoyed a visit to the London office of the distinguished global law firm, Winston & Strawn, with its magnificent views of central London. There they discussed what was motivating them to consider legal careers and heard from partners and associates about the varied paths they had taken from university to their current roles; from the more traditional path of ‘law degree to firm’, to detours via the world’s conflict zones as a lawyer in the British Army.
As varied as their career histories were, the lawyers of Winston & Strawn also talked about the differences between their roles even within the same firm, with white collar crime, corporate law, commercial disputes and even middle-eastern infrastructure development being among their specialist areas. This developed into a broader discussion about the many different types of legal practice that exist – from the high street to the ‘Magic Circle’, as well as how a law degree was good preparation for opportunities even outside of the legal profession, due in no small part to the many skills that the study of law develops.
The final part of session saw the students forming two teams to debate the controversial real-life case of Charlie Gard, a baby with a rare and degenerative genetic condition who had been the subject of a protracted legal dispute between the hospital that had advocated for withdrawing life-support, and his parents, who wanted to take him overseas for experimental treatment. This gave the students the opportunity to practice some of the skills employed in preparing to try an emotive case, as well as those used in the court room, such as the art of the opening and closing statement, argument and rebuttal.
As part of the emerging collaboration between Goldsmiths and Winston & Stawn, the visit exemplified the strong emphasis on commercial awareness and experiential learning opportunities that will define the LLB Law at Goldsmiths. Students on the LLB will benefit from close links between Goldsmiths and working professionals within the legal world, in ways that take them beyond the world of academia and the traditional classroom environment.