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.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

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!

Friday, July 08, 2016

How Not to Save the Planet - and its critics [UPDATED]

The second issue in this year's volume of Ethics, Policy & Environment includes my target article How Not to Save the Planet. I accept the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change about how climate change has contributed to serious environmental problems for which human beings have responsibility - I am no climate change sceptic. So much, so uncontroversial.

But the main argument is against proposed solutions to these problems offered by political philosophers. From the environmental footprint and polluter pays principle to adaptation technologies, I claim that none - as argued by their proponents - solves the problem of climate change. While all claim to be the key to unlocking a sustainable forever after, I argue that we must do better.

And this leads me to a central charge: that each gets wrong the kind of problem that climate change represents, namely, as a problem that can be solved through what I call 'end-state solutions': if we do x, then y will be the result. This gets it wrong because climate change will continue whether or not there are human beings. In turn, this raises new ethical questions and policy challenges for our thinking - and doing something about - climate change.

In one response to my article, Alexander Lee and Jordan Kincaid reflect on whether we can lose the planet but save ourselves. Their argument is to blame the policymakers, not the philosophers. They appear to concede my critiques of the major proposals advanced by leading philosophers working in the ethics of climate change, but argue "the value of philosophy rests not on successful policy action, but in the process of moral evaluation". They conclude "philosophers can guide moral mitigation, even in a world where climate mitigation is no longer possible".

This brings together different arguments, but I want to focus on some assumptions: that philosophy can provide guidance even where its recommendation "is no longer possible" - in short, it can still guide us even if the guidance could never be acted upon. I cannot see the value in an ethics that is impossible as guidance - even if I accept the value of a principle is not dependent on its lack of success in practice.

I would have wanted to hear more about how, if the principles of polluter pays and others remain valid, they might be implemented better. A political philosophy that has such a disregard for the real world - where possibility is considered irrelevant - not only gives philosophy a bad name, but takes us too far away from considering the value of institutions which must always play some important role for political philosophy.

In a second response to my piece, Jonathan Peter Schwartz argues that my claim that "the ecological footprint strategy as an 'end-state' solution profoundly misses the point". His claim is that those most beyond their means are in affluent states that contribute most to the climate change-related harms that will be suffered by those in poorer states. We therefore should aim for a "sustainable global economy" to help buy ourselves more time "to effectively pursue the adaption strategy Brooks' advocates".

In reply, it is worth noting that my criticism of the ecological footprint strategy took more than one form. I argued that a one-size-fits-all footprint does not treat all countries equally (some will have greater or lesser research needs depending on local climates) or fairly (some individuals over a lifetime will require different footprints).

I also noted - and left out by Schwartz - that locking all countries into the same sized footprint will allow some countries (namely, the most affluent) to solidify their global position of power over others (namely, the most poor) because more wealthy states are better placed to exploit such conditions to their benefit. The implication is keeping ourselves within a sufficiently small one-size-fits-all footprint might prolong a sustainable future (versus where we are headed now), but the rich will become better off than the poor.

The mistake is thinking that this will be a sustainable future. I am clearly in favour of BOTH conservationism AND adaptation: my central criticisms focus on those who think we can choose one over the other. And this seems a problem with Schwartz's view: he notes "with several hundred to thousands of years to pursue adaption research and strategies" - I'm less convinced an ecological footprint can deliver it and doubtful a sustainable economy is an easy fit with this footprint without hearing more about what he has in mind.

In a third response to my article, Ben Mylius argues for a process-centred approach to thinking about climate change. I'm unsure we disagree about that. I can see why Mylius thought of my critique of end-state solutions as a kind of "outmoded Hegelian idea" about some kind of end of history given my previous work on Hegel's philosophy -- although actually I had Robert Nozick in mind and his critique of Rawls's theory of distributive justice.

But I don't see where his analysis builds off of mine. I am clear that thinking there is some one goal or end-state of affairs is misleading - and potentially dangerous - thinking given that the climate is constantly changing even if there were not human beings.

The fourth and final response is by Clement Loo and he also argued for a process-based framework. We are clearly in agreement here ("Brooks convincingly makes the case that the current arguments for climate mitigation and adaptation fail".) Loo endorses a reparative view of climate change and his account, if brief, is highly interesting with much to be said for it.

I accept there is an intuitively attractive case to be made for those who contribute to the harms others suffer from should contribute to some kind of response like repair. Where I am less certain is the precise nature of the response (economic? punishment? something else?) and how any moral intuitions we have can be employed into a compelling policy framework. Loo accepts this and so my main reply to his thoughtful piece is I'd like to see more - and may well agree with where he takes the argument. But we must see it fully developed to make that judgement.

In short, it is a pleasure to receive such reflective and insightful critiques of my work on climate change (originally written as a response to papers on the topic delivered at Newcastle University during my time there that I disagreed with - my paper systematizes my similar responses over the years).

Thursday, July 07, 2016

PETITION: Permanent residency for all non-British EU citizens currently in the UK

Permanent residency for all non-British EU citizens currently in the UK

Parliament should ensure that all non-British EU citizens currently in the UK are granted permanent residency. Their residency status and right to work or study should not be in doubt whatever the final plan for Britain's leaving the EU might take in future.


Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Delighted to speak on "Border Security" in International Centre for Parliamentary Studies programme

Enjoyed speaking on "border security" yesterday in programme run by the International Centre for Parliamentary Studies. Past speakers include Prime Minister David Cameron, former Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Baroness Prashar CBE and Sir Richard Branson. [READ MORE HERE]

PRESS RELEASE: Brexit Britain needs a migration impacts reduction fund

Brexit Britain needs a migration impacts reduction fund

For immediate release, Wednesday, July 25, 2016
-With picture-
*TV and radio broadcast facilities available*

The Government must provide urgent funding to help reduce the impact of migration on public services, according to a Durham University expert.

Immigration was a top concern for Leave supporters that won a narrow victory in the EU referendum last week. Record levels of net migration are believed to add pressure on already stretched public services.

Professor Thom Brooks, a leading immigration specialist at Durham University, called for the return of the Migration Impacts Fund launched in 2009, which was discontinued by the Coalition Government after the 2010 general election. The Migration Impacts Fund was self-financed by introducing a £50 levy on immigration application fees.

Professor Brooks said: “The Migration Impacts Fund helped support about £70m over two years. It was neither funded by taxpayers or the European Union and it provided an invaluable source of new funding to reduce migration-related pressures on local services, covering a range of programmes including English language training, extra support teachers and improving emergency services.

“The Coalition Government stopped support for the fund because it found it ‘ineffective’, but did not replace it with an alternative. The extra income generated was diverted to other Government spending programmes. The problem is that the Government is now forced to find money elsewhere.”

In his research, Professor Brooks claims at least an extra £11.7m could be created by only a £25 levy on immigration applications that could be used to support efforts to reduce migration-related impact. This would add nearly £60m over fives – and twice this amount if the original £50 levy is reinstated.

Professor Brooks added: “A new Migration Impacts Reduction Fund can create an urgently needed funding stream to help relieve migration-related pressures on local public services paid for by migrants. These funds can help support hiring supply teachers, running extra buses or providing other local services now under strain’.

Migration applications can cost over £1,000 and it includes the original £50 surcharge. Instead of spending this money on reducing the impacts related to migration, the Coalition Government diverted this money to paying off the deficit. Six years later, the Tory manifesto committed itself to developing a fund. Brooks says, ‘It’s now time for them to deliver – and to add greater flexibility to how funding can be used for public benefit’.



Professor Thom Brooks, Chair in Law and Government at Durham University's Law School, is available for comment. Contact him by email address ( or telephone (0191 33 44 365)

Further reading

Migration Impacts Reduction Fund, Law School Research Briefing Number 18, by Professor Thom Brooks, is available via this link:




Monday, July 04, 2016

PRESS RELEASE: Government must stop post-referendum attacks before someone is killed

Government must stop post-referendum attacks before someone is killed
For immediate release – Monday, 4 July 2016
-With picture-
*TV and radio broadcast facilities available*

A Durham University academic warns the government must act urgently to stop post-referendum attacks. In a narrow victory, the public supported leaving the EU by 52% to 48%. There has been a surge in race-related attacks recorded by police since the vote on 23 June. Over 300 racist incidents were reported during the following week. The weekly average is 63 such incidents. Some have resulted in serious injuries requiring hospitalisation.
Thom Brooks, Professor of Law and Government at Durham University, argues: ‘The government must act urgently to put an end to this violence before someone is killed. There is a vacuum of political leadership as the country’s embarking on a Brexit awaits a new Prime Minister. But the country cannot stand by and wait while innocent people are attacked in broad daylight for appearing different in xenophobia gone mad’.
An immigrant from the United States, Professor Brooks is a leading immigration specialist and a British citizen since 2011. ‘Members of the public have asked me if I’m alright post-referendum’, says Brooks, ‘because they mistakenly believe that the Leave vote means all immigrants must now leave the country or face deportation’.
He calls on the government to make clear that the referendum vote about Britain’s EU membership has not changed the current law. Prime Minister David Cameron has confirmed that his successor will lead negotiations with the EU after he leaves office.
Professor Brooks says: ‘This is not about changing the result, but protecting the public. It is never ok to verbally or racially abuse migrants. The government may not have foreseen the tensions exploding in public now, but they have a duty to act. There must be better communication, greater attention given at tackling this problem and a clear signal should be sent to migrants living in Britain that they remain welcome. Our status in the EU has not changed, at least not yet’.

Journalists can contact me on EMAIL HERE or ring 0191 3344 365

STATEMENT: Law firm is taking action to ensure Parliament, not the next PM, triggers Article 50

STATEMENT on Law firm is taking action to ensure Parliament, not the next PM, triggers Article 50 by Professor Thom Brooks, Durham University:

Mischon de Reya issued a statement saying it would be unlawful for the Prime Minister to trigger Article 50 leading the UK to leave the EU

The law firm is correct on the law. Triggering Article 50 would invalidate an Act of Parliament – namely, the European Communities Act 1972. No minister, including the next Prime Minister, can invalidate primary legislation by himself or herself. It is for Parliament to terminate its Act.

Campaigners for Brexit argued that Britain must get its sovereignty back. Legally, Parliament was always sovereign. European laws are only incorporated into British law by an Act of Parliament – it is for Parliament to decide whether to accept – or reject – European laws.

But while this gets the law correct, this still leaves the politics. There is much public confusion about whether the UK is in the EU and what happens next. It may not be well received to learn that the referendum was not binding on Parliament, that Parliament may choose to ignore its result or that it is Parliament to decide several months into the future whether or not to Brexit.


For additional comment or interviews, contact Professor Thom Brooks by EMAIL or TELEPHONE (0191 33 44 365).


The Electoral Commission quotes Professor Thom Brooks in support of its recommendations to Parliament for the final wording of the EU referendum question and answers.