Wednesday, October 12, 2016

STATEMENT: Theresa May's Brexit plans

Statement by Thom Brooks, Head of Durham Law School -

·      Little has changed since Theresa May said “Brexit means Brexit”. We still lack much substance on what comes next – except that May wants to keep us all in the dark.

·     It’s a relief to see growing unease in Parliament for May to trigger Article 50 without a plan given proper scrutiny by MPs and the public.

·     The Referendum was for leaving the EU, but not on any terms.

·     Vote Leave promised £350 million per week to the NHS and a points-based immigration system – neither will happen.

·     Vote Leave also promised that leaving would mean Parliament could ‘take back control’. And so it should in deciding the terms and timing for any Brexit.

·     If May fails to do that too, she ignores the three main pledges that won the referendum for Brexit – and risks abusing a vote for one future by giving us something very different. And none of us know what that is. Perhaps not even her Cabinet.

Monday, October 10, 2016

STATEMENT: On Clinton v Trump in Presidential Debate No. 2

·    Americans watching the second Presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump saw the most heated confrontation in this increasingly personal campaign.

·     Viewers favoured Clinton over Trump, but we should not overstate the importance of the debate on changing minds.

·     It wasn’t the debate that put a nail in the coffin of Trump’s campaign for the White House but his lewd remarks about women that look like a significant turning point – with more voters turned off from supporting Trump.

·     While Clinton’s chances improve daily – although her campaign has been far from perfect – the real problem for Republicans is where they go next. While their establishment retract endorsements to Trump in their droves, the GOP base still favour Trump overwhelmingly. Trump may not be the face of America or ever lead it, but the longer the Republicans cannot unseat him as their most popular member they will remain looking at the White House from outside the Rose Garden gates rather than from inside the Oval Office.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Theresa May triggers Brexit - by ensuring all EU law is embedded in UK law?

Remarks on Theresa May's recent speech on Brexit to the Conservative Party conference by Professor Thom Brooks, Head of Durham Law School:

·         We’re still no further forward about what ‘Brexit’ means.

·         PM Theresa May has set a deadline for triggering Article 50 by the end of March 2017. But this assumes she can pull the trigger without the consent of Parliament  – and this is hotly contested and will be decided by the courts.

·         Leaving the EU does not mean leaving behind EU laws. May’s new Great Repeal Bill actually keeps all EU laws currently recognised in UK law. The big change is that it opens the door to the repeal of EU laws over time.

·         This is likely to take many years – not only to do a trade deal with the EU, but to select which of the thousands of EU regulations we will keep, which we will amend and which we will reject. This is a revolution that will come no sooner than “in due course” – and it will test the patience of many a Brexiteer.

·         May’s speech made plain her wish that government ministers make executive decisions about EU rules, but this is likely to be challenged by Parliament with fierce resistance.

·         If ‘Brexit means Brexit’ and leaving the EU, the Great Reform Bill will have Brexit mean the UK still having all EU laws – for now and the near future until a plan is on offer. We still seem no closer to that.

Journalists can contact me HERE

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

STATEMENT: Hillary Clinton will recover from pneumonia, but will she heal damage on trust to her reputation? #FluGate

·         Everyone gets pneumonia. Not everyone lies about it – or tries to make people think it’s something else.

·         Health and stamina are important issues for US Presidential candidates. The job is exhausting and requires being in good physical shape.

·         The big issue here isn’t really health, but trust.

·         Pneumonia isn’t the plague. Hillary will make a full and swift recovery from that.

·         The main point is whether she can recover from the damage done to her reputation.

·         Serious questions have been raised about the use of her personal email account while she served as Secretary of State. Donald Trump has questioned whether the public can trust her.

·         Hillary’s getting pneumonia should have been trivial. But her team’s poor handling of this issue has brought to the centre of this bitter presidential debate raising new questions about trust and honesty.

·         This is not an issue any candidate wants debated with less than two months to go to the election.

·         The election is still Hillary’s to lose, but she’s not making it any easier through unforced errors like this.

STATEMENT: David Cameron resigns from Parliament defined by Brexit

Statement by Professor Thom Brooks (Head, Durham Law School) on former PM David Cameron's resignation from Parliament:

·         David Cameron is – in many ways – a great success. He revolutionised the Conservatives into a new look (complete with new tree logo) modernised political party that brought an end to the Blair-Brown years under Labour.

·         Cameron’s greatest triumph was probably in defeating the polls ahead of the 2015 General Election where many had the Tories pegged to come second behind Labour. Cameron’s Tories went on to win an outright majority.

·         And to his credit, the Tories were able to expand their MPs on re-election – a rare political feat.

·         But Cameron will not be remembered for any of this. It is the decision to hold a referendum he never needed and that he lost over Brexit that will define his legacy in history books for years to come.

·         Fearing that UKIP might cost the Tories the election, he promised an EU referendum if the Tories formed a government. And – to his shock – he got his wish.

·         Then fearing summer stories about migration that also never materialised, a referendum bill was rushed through Parliament and the public had the spring to decide.

·         When Cameron took over the Tories, they were divided over Europe. Now the country is too.


Monday, September 05, 2016

STATEMENT: Theresa May & the UK points based immigration

The news today is that Theresa May has rejected calls for a points based system for Britain post-Brexit. But this is only partly true.

For nearly a decade, the UK has had a points based system - but it applies only to non-EU citizens. I know. I had to meet the right number of points to stay in the UK as a non-EU citizen from the United States.

Australia is credited with having a points based system that the UK should import - and this is what Tony Blair's government largely did. Australia brought in the system to attract more immigrants.

The way it works is that someone can get a visa to live and work in Australia if they satisfy a number of requirements: each gains an applicant a set number of points, these are added up and a visa is granted if the number meets or exceeds a target.

Points are awarded for holding higher qualifications (the 'higher' the qualifications, the more points earned), salary (the more earned, the more points awarded) and/or for working in certain industries. The system is designed to attract more immigrants (and not less) by sending out a signal to select types of immigrants (e.g., qualifications, working in key areas, etc.) that if they want to come to Australia, they can. Oh, and it worked - Australia did attract more migrants as well.

Britain brought in a similar system - based on the Australian model - but added caveats like a limit on the number of work visas that could be granted.

Prime Minister Theresa May has ruled out using a points based system, but it is unclear what this means. She has not made any effort to stop its use for non-UK citizens - and her comments do not indicate any threat to their continued use for these citizens either. To say that she opposes a points based system overlooks the fact that a points based system already exists for many people today in Britain.

We're told she prefers work visas. If there are only x number of work visas to award, then these can be limited to x - but it is unclear why there cannot be a cap on work visas alongside using a points based system like at present for non-EU citizens.

And passing the points based system hasn't been a problem for her before. After I passed the system, I applied two years later for British citizenship - and then Home Secretary Theresa May sent me this letter:

For more on how a points based immigration system works, see my book Becoming British: UK Citizenship Examined (Biteback) published this summer.

Monday, August 29, 2016

I don't see Brexit happening any time soon

. . . and that's what I told both the Daily Mail and The Independent for feature interviews with me that ran today.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Professor Thom Brooks: How Labour is failing voters

. . . is the title of my column for Express on Sunday about the Labour Party leadership contest -- and the long road back to power with my advice on where we in Labour should start [READ MORE HERE].

Friday, August 26, 2016

It was a pleasure to speak on a "Looking Forward: reflections on UK political culture" panel at a conference on The "Brexit" campaign: 2016 UK referendum on membership of the European Union held at Leicester University last month. Fellow panellists included Jay Blumler (Leeds) and Jen Birks (Nottingham). 

I spoke about the EU Referendum as a referendum on the Tories and Labour - and what this means for the current political situation in Britain.

The event was also an opportunity to launch an important new report [READ IT HERE].

A fabulous occasion and great discussion.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Delighted to be the new Head of Durham's brilliant Law School

Durham Law School came 3rd in the UK's national Research Excellence Framework assessment and we're ranked 41st in the world on a clear upward trajectory. An honour to serve as the head of such a terrific Law School and looking forward to the future.

Delighted to be Advisory Editor to the University of Bologna Law Review

. . . assisting with any submissions in the area of legal philosophy for the law review [READ MORE].

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Why the arguments for scrapping Trident just didn't add up

. . . is my latest column for the Newcastle Journal, the UK's regional newspaper of the year. My column can be read here. [SEE MORE]

STATEMENT: UK might have won EU reforms if referendum delayed 12 months

Statement by Thom Brooks, Professor of Law & Government and Head of Durham Law School at Durham University:

·         Italian PM Matteo Renzi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande met off the coast of Naples.

·         They delivered an important statement about the EU without the UK – a Europe that will work closer together on common defence, intelligence sharing and tackling youth unemployment.

·         The EU is clearly bruised by the UK referendum result and needs to reassert positive momentum – this speech is an important step in this direction.

·         But this statement also shows widespread agreement at the heart of Europe for reforming the EU.

·         The three areas outlines – defence, intelligence and employment – are not the only areas highlighted for change. Reforms to the Dublin Agreement on asylum seekers is also moving forward.

·         The irony is that at a time where the EU accepts reforms are needed – many of which are consonant with the UK’s wishes – it is only now that the UK is choosing to walk away.

·         This may prove a major opportunity lost that could have led to substantial benefits for the UK – and perhaps if the referendum was delayed by a year many voter concerns might have been met within the EU without having to leave it.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Thom Brooks named Head of Durham Law School

I am delighted to announce that I have been named the new Head of Durham Law School, one of the leading law schools in Britain. Durham ranked 3rd in the UK's Research Excellence Framework exercise and 41st globally. I am excited about this new opportunity and looking forward to building on the School's many successes.

COMMENT: Home Affairs Committee Report on EU Migration Crisis

 Statement by Professor Thom Brooks, Head of Durham Law School & Professor of Law and Government:

·         Home Affairs Committee Report says EU action is “too little, too late” after a year long inquiry

·         Many of its conclusions and recommendations I reached a year ago. For example:

·         The Committee’s Report says that too few local authorities have taken in Syrian refugees and that the government seems unable to meet its own target of repatriating 20,000. But many of us have noted with concern that too few local authorities take ANY refugees. Neither former PM David Cameron or former Immigration Minister (now Northern Ireland Secretary) James Brokenshire had one refugee relocated to their constituencies. Meanwhile areas like Middlesbrough have taken in more than the national guidelines and faced heavy pressures on local public services as a result. This is a problem that isn’t new.

·         The Report states that there should be greater coordination among Britain’s Border Agency, MOD, Coast Guard and other agencies to deal with border security issues together in a more ‘joined up’ effort. But unprecedented movement of people into Europe also requires greater coordination on the EU’s border. Britain cannot police it alone. If the UK remained in the EU, it would be part of a EU-wide coast guard protecting Europe’s external border. Government now needs a plan in place on what it will do next with a Brexit.

·         Treaty arrangements between Britain and France for the Eurotunnel are separate from any agreements within the EU. The one need not be affected much by the other and should remain in place.


Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Great fun in Westminster

This past weekend I enjoyed attending the wedding of my good friend and local MP Phil Wilson. It was held in the Houses of Parliament. This photo was taken during the reception in the apartments in the famous tower housing Big Ben belonging to the Speaker of the House of Commons. This particular room is where the monarch slept the night before delivering the king's speech the next day.

Friday, July 29, 2016

In the age of Byron Burgers, we are all border agents

. . . is my new piece for the International Business Times. [READ MORE HERE]

Don’t grill Byron burger for government’s cheap-as-chips immigration tactics

. . . is my latest piece for The Conversation. [READ MORE HERE]

The Oxford Handbook of Well-Being and Public Policy

A fabulous new book - and warmly recommended to readers:

Edited by Matthew D. Adler and Marc Fleurbaey

Oxford Handbooks

  • Identifies the tools and methodologies for evaluating and improving government policy in light of the effect of policies on individual well-being
  • Approaches the topic from an interdisciplinary perspective by drawing on economics, philosophy and psychology
  • Comprehensively reviews methodologies of assessing policies including GDP, inequality and poverty metrics, cost-benefit analysis, cost-effectiveness analysis, and social welfare functions; conceptions of individual well-being such as preference-based, hedonic/happiness, and objective goods; and of tools for measuring well-being
Link to book is HERE

Thursday, July 28, 2016

COMMENT: Byron burger chain staff arrested in immigration raids

A brief comment on Byron burger chain staff arrested in immigration raids:

·    The government has made it more difficult for migrants to work illegally in UK.
Migrants must show prove of lawful residency for work, renting property from a private landlord, opening a bank account or acquiring a drivers licence. The aim of these measures is to make every day life more difficult for migrants in the UK unlawfully.

·    Exposing illegal workers is how most migrants unlawfully in the UK are discovered.
Migrants in the UK unlawfully are not mostly discovered at the border, but within the country -- usually after a tourist or work visa has expired.

·    Key industry is food  and takeaways for discovering illegal working.
The government has been increasing its searches of businesses where illegal working has been a problem historically given limited resources for such work.

·     But unclear how government’s checks led up today as Byron Burgers had already done satisfactory checks.
Byron Burgers had done the proper checks - and nothing wrong despite some of its employees submitting false documents. This is a real challenge for the Home Office - it has effectively devolved immigration enforcement to employers, private landlords, banks and universities - but often without the full means available to the Home Office to uncover false papers. In the end, "intelligence" perhaps a tip off from the community brought about this result rather than any of the government's recent measures to tackle illegal working.
Thom Brooks, Professor of Law and Government & Head of Durham Law School at Durham University, is available for comment on or 0191 3344 365.

Friday, July 15, 2016

STATEMENT: Winning the war against home grown terror must start at home #NiceAttack

Statement by Thom Brooks, Professor of Law and Government at Durham University's Law School and author of Becoming British (Biteback Publishing, 2016):

Early reports suggest that the lorry driver, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who drove into crowds in Nice, France killing over 80 people was a local man.

We must wait to know more, but sadly this awful event is being treated by French police as an act of home grown terrorism.

There are no doors to slam shut to keep out home grown terrorists and their supporters already living among us in our communities.

A defining feature of home grown terrorists is their beliefs about disconnection from their community. They identify themselves separately - they do not see themselves as having a stake in the future of their community.

Much more must be done to improve the integration of citizens and all residents new and old. Too often integration is believed to be a process for migrants alone: "they" are to become more like "us". But a coherent community is "we" together.

More can and should be done in France - and elsewhere - to promote and support integration and citizenship.

As I argue in my new book Becoming British, leaving integration up to new members alone overlooks the fact that many second and later generations can also be alienated from society. The more we can tackle alienation and its causes, the more people can see their future in a shared community they have an interest in developing.

This won't win the war against terror on its own, but it's difficult to see how it can be won without it either.

Thom Brooks is Professor of Law and Government at Durham University's Law School and author of Becoming British (Biteback Publishing) published last month.

[Contact details here]

Thursday, July 14, 2016

JOBS (2) - Durham Law School

Two new posts available at Durham Law School: 

Teaching Fellow in Law

Durham University - Durham Law School

Durham Law School is seeking to appoint a 1.0 FTE Teaching Fellow in Law for the period 1 September 2016 to 31 August 2017.

The successful candidate will be required to contribute to undergraduate teaching in core areas of the undergraduate LLB syllabus.

It is expected that the successful candidate will be able to offer excellent teaching in Criminal Law or EU Constitutional Law. Durham Law School is one of the UK’s very best law schools with an outstanding reputation for excellence in teaching, research and employability of our students. Ranked 3rd in the UK’s last Research Excellence Framework (REF2014: in terms of grade point average, the Law School is a vibrant and inclusive academic community of imaginative scholars working at the frontiers of legal knowledge.

The Law School is committed to small group teaching and achieved a 90% overall satisfaction rating in the 2015 National Student Survey. The successful candidate should be in post on or after 1 September 2016. We embrace excellence in all its forms and invite all qualified candidates to apply. Durham Law School particularly welcome applications from women and black and minority ethnic candidates, who are under-represented in the university. Application process.

The letter of application must include a brief summary of your approach to teaching. Shortlisted candidates will be informed by 17 August 2016 and invited for interview on Friday 26 August 2016.
Shortlisted candidates will be invited to give a presentation of 15 minutes on any topic relevant to the undergraduate LLB curriculum.

Candidates should then expect to respond to questions for a further period of 10 minutes.
For informal enquiries please contact the Head of School at



Post-doctoral Research Assistant

Durham University - Durham Law School

Faculty/Division:  Social Sciences and Health
Position Type: Part Time (50% FEC)

Durham Law School seeks to appoint a researcher in the field of general international law, and with a particular interest in international law theory, to work with Dr Gleider Hernández. The successful candidate is provisionally scheduled to be in post on 1 October 2016, subject to negotiation, and is a 0.5FTE position (17.5 hours per week). This post will be for 12 months. There will be considerable flexibility as to the organisation of working time across the life of the project.

The successful candidate will work within the project Constructing Authority in International Law. This project, funded by an award from the Arts & Humanities Research Council, is a Research Leadership Fellowship (Early Career) for Dr Hernández, who is Principal Investigator. It explores the nature and form of the international legal order, and in particular the influence and contribution of various actors and institutions on the development of that order. The successful applicant will provide research assistance and support to the Principal Investigator in achieving the research objectives of the Fellowship. The successful applicant will also assist in the management of various resources, such as the curation of a website and the preparation of research briefings, aimed at a diverse set of audiences.

The project has an important collaborative component, namely, the preparation and delivery of an edited collection, gathering a diverse and highly international set of authors and contributors. With some administrative support, the successful candidate will organise a writing workshop gathering the contributors, assist with the editing, peer review process and gathering of the papers, communicate with the contributors, and otherwise participate fully in the preparation of the edited collection.
The successful applicant will be independent, imaginative and able to work on his or her own initiative. S/he will be an excellent researcher in his/her own right, and, as well as working on the project, will benefit from career mentoring and development from the Principal Investigator, as well as within Durham Law School and the Global Policy Institute (of which the Principal Investigator is Deputy Director). The appointee should have potential experience with managing complex projects, and in particular, of preparing work for publication. The appointee should have excellent communication skills in a professional academic context.

Applications should include a covering letter explaining the candidate’s motivation for the post, accompanied by a detailed CV, including the details of any publications, where relevant. Shortlisted candidates will be informed in early August, and will be invited to visit Durham Law School for an interview on Wednesday 17 August 2016.

For informal enquiries please contact Dr Gleider Hernández, Principal Investigator on this post ( All enquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence.

STATEMENT: Theresa May's making Boris Johnson Foreign Secretary is so deliciously Tory (UPDATED)

Statement by Thom Brooks, Professor of Law and Government at Durham University (contact email):

Theresa May's appointment of Boris Johnson as the UK's new Foreign Secretary has caught many political observers by surprise.

After stepping down from the Tory leadership contest, some thought Boris's future rise in the party was over.

But many other critics accused Boris of cowardice. Not throwing his hat in the ring to lead Britain into Brexit was seen - rightly in my view - as an attempt to dodge any responsibility for the significant and hugely complex negotiations that any Brexit will entail.

May's appointing Boris means that he can't dodge figuring out a plan for a British Brexit after all. And should he fail to do this convincingly -- and I strongly suspect he will drop the ball -- all blame can be placed at the feet of one Boris Johnson alone. Theresa May can escape unscathed.

If this sounds like ingenious plotting House of Cards-style, it's because it is all so deliciously Tory.

Michael Gove is rightly disliked for being so obviously ruthless in his own self-interest.

But Theresa May has done one better -- she can even appear statesmanlike and benefit from setting Boris up to fail doing what Boris said he wanted to do.

UPDATE 1: Boris Johnson has entertained with sometimes bemusing - other times outlandish - remarks in colourful interviews and his columns.

His new appointment means this history may come to haunt him, especially when trying to negotiate with the very world leaders and countries he has insulted.

Like me, Boris is also a dual citizen of the United Kingdom -- and the United States. For anyone else, this might be seen as a welcome status to have in building a closer 'special relationship' for a Britain entering Brexit. Only Boris could have neutralised this clear gain by his reckless insults of President Barack Obama. Boris might start many of his first talks by saying 'sorry'.

But I think this past will also make his doing this important role more difficult. Theresa May is taking a gamble. Boris could do real damage, but the likelihood is the Chief Brexiteer will find himself unable to make much of a Brexit deal (that may well scupper triggering Article 50 after all). He alone will get the blame -- and May's main potential future challenger will be out of the running for many years to come. A shrewd move.

UPDATE 2: Boris Johnson has said he intends to end his American citizenship - but there is no evidence that he has done so, as reported by the Washington Post.

My work on UK citizenship test makes the Washington Post

Details here!