The new sovereigntism: what it means for human rights law in the UK

Cross-posted from LSE Brexit Blog

For many people, Brexit is about taking back ‘control’; about determining for ‘ourselves’ what the law is, how it applies, how we spend our money, and how we develop our policies. The fact that many people both before the referendum and now struggle to identify with accuracy an area of law or policy in which the EU has ‘taken’ control (and not had competence ceded or shared through a Treaty change ratified by the UK) is irrelevant; what matters is the perception of a lack of national autonomy, and an associated corrosion of domestic democratic control.

Deep within at least parts of the arguments that circulate around Brexit is a form of new sovereigntism that is deeply worrying to the rule of law. The UK is hardly alone in this phenomenon; as far back as 2000 Peter Spiro wrote about the emergence of new sovereigntism in the United States; about a group of scholars and intellectuals who were not opposed to international law per se, but who thought that the US should be able to engage with it as and when it wanted to. In other words, these scholars promoted an a la carte approach to international law, underpinned by a “brand of anti-internationalism [that] runs deep in the American political tradition”. Continue reading The new sovereigntism: what it means for human rights law in the UK

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Being an Academic Today: Thoughts for Undergraduates

This week I went to Dublin to speak at the opening dinner of the Global Summit for the Undergraduate Awards. The dinner, and my speech, were on Wednesday (9 November), and the 150 students being honoured at the dinner came from all over the world. Wednesday, of course, was when people on this side of the Atlantic discovered that Donald Trump had been elected as the 45th President of the United States of America (subject to ratification by the Electoral College, of course). For many people, the election of Trump was a blow to progressivism, human rights, esteem and many other values that we hold dear; it is also perceived by many as part of the slide towards authoritarianism across ‘the West’. Bearing all of this in mind, it was somewhat difficult to craft a speech that would be uplifting, but the below is the text that I settled on. I decided to focus on being an academic in the arts, humanities and social sciences, and on the social value of that role at times like this. Continue reading Being an Academic Today: Thoughts for Undergraduates

Hong Kong and Comparative Public Law

As already noted, I have spent this week in Hong Kong, visiting at HKU Law’s brilliant and vibrant Centre for Comparative and Public Law. It is a fascinating time to be in Hong Kong. Elections for the Legislative Council take place today (Sunday 4th September), and the political arena is alive with calls for everything from Hong Kong independence (although they are not in the majority) to a return of Hong Kong to the UK (definitely not the majority!). My dominant sense, though, from the week spent contributing to a roundtable on the HK Basic Law’s Article 23 (this is a useful primer), speaking to PhD students, speaking with practicing lawyers and lawyers in training is that people are deeply concerned with maintaining not only the Hong Kong way of life but also—and fundamentally connected therewith—the Rule of Law. Continue reading Hong Kong and Comparative Public Law

Public Lecture in Hong Kong: A Rule of Law Crisis in Europe?

EDIT (1.9.16): It seems there is quite a bit of interest in this topic, so the location of the lecture has been changed to Room 724 & 725, 7/F Cheng Yu Tung Tower, Centennial Campus, The University of Hong Kong. Registration is still open!

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I will spend next week as a visitor at the Centre for Comparative and Public Law at the University of Hong Kong. While there, I will be participating in a workshop and collaborating with colleagues in the CCPL, meeting with doctoral researchers and discussing their work with them, and also giving a public lecture on Friday, September 3rd.

The lecture, “Is there a Rule of Law Crisis in Europe?”, will take place at 5:30pm on the Centennial Campus of HKU (Small Moot Court, Room 723 Room 724 & 725, 7/F Cheng Yu Tung Tower). Registration is free but encouraged, as there is a registration limit of 50. If you are in Hong Kong at the time you can register here. Continue reading Public Lecture in Hong Kong: A Rule of Law Crisis in Europe?