Monday, December 17, 2018

Second Referendum only choice if Parliament gridlocked, says advisor

An expert who advised the Electoral Commission on the wording of the EU Referendum is recommending a second referendum has become necessary if Parliament remains gridlocked.

Professor Thom Brooks, Dean of Durham Law School, says that should MPs be unable to agree a deal the decision on how to proceed should be put to the public. “A second referendum cannot be justified as a re-run of the last one. But it is our only choice if Parliament remains unable to agree our future relationship with the EU.”

Brooks proposes the second referendum must be different from the first. The choice would be between the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal or remaining in the European Union.

“Theresa May’s deal is the only Brexit on offer and there is no mandate for new negotiations without a snap election. We cannot hold a referendum every time a government wants support for a new deal because that would be re-opening this issue repeatedly until a ‘correct’ result is reached which is intolerable and disrespects public.”

He advises against including No Deal as this was never an option in the first referendum where the idea of leaving the EU without an agreement was widely mocked as Project Fear. Including No Deal as a third option would also split the Brexit vote with May’s deal undermining integrity of result.

Brooks says: “Many in Parliament seem split. They have doubts about May’s deal, but do not want to act against the public’s wishes. This is understandable. Now that Brexit means 500+ pages of detail, it should be left to the public to decide whether or not to accept the view it is the Brexit they voted for or not.”

The Electoral Commission recommended the last referendum’s wording was changed to ensure fairness and impartiality, quoting and citing written evidence from Professor Brooks in its final report to David Cameron’s government.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Brooks evidence to Home Affairs Committee: Post-Brexit Migration Policy Consultation


Post-Brexit Migration Policy Consultation

Name:        Professor Thom Brooks FAcSS FHEA FRHisS FRSA
Job title:     Dean & Chair in Law and Government
Address:     Durham Law School, Durham University, Durham, DH1 3LE






1.       What should the Government’s objectives be in drawing up a post Brexit immigration system?
This moment should be seized to overhaul the immigration system. For over 20 years, there have been countless Acts of Parliament relating to immigration and sometimes annually. These can be amended almost as soon as they come into force. An immigration commission is needed urgently to effectively tidy this up with a new draft Bill that harmonizes existing laws. This would be one small, but important, step towards making the system more transparent and less complex.
The next step would be to ensure Britain’s competitiveness with an immigration system that both attracts the world’s best and brightest – but without separating British citizens from their families. I would recommend an end to points-based migration, the use of post-study visas, and a new Tier 6 stream for EU (and Commonwealth) citizens based on the UK’s longstanding and deep connection with each.
There should also be fundamental reforms to the family rules. The minimum income threshold, if it were to remain, should account for income by the couple and not only the UK citizen earned in the UK. Non-EU citizens cannot claim public benefit anyway and the income threshold aimed at cancelling out any such benefit burden is a red herring. But denying income earned from the non-UK citizen in calculating the threshold increases risk of separating lawfully recognised marriages of British citizens with no convincing public policy benefit.
2.       What are the implications of the net migration target?
The net migration target is a smokescreen. As I have argued elsewhere and many times, the government could reach its target of 100,000 or less within 12 months if it wanted to.[1] At present, we see non-EU citizens within the government’s full control rising while the EU citizens it claims are unrestricted falling fast. The net migration target could be reached by ending visas for entrepreneurs, skilled professionals, students and more for non-EU citizens. But there has not been deep cuts for these areas because of the evidence-based benefits they deliver for the UK. This raises a question about why have a net migration target that could be reached but isn’t. Brexit is not a cause.
In fact, there has been what I have called ‘the free movement myth’ that EU migration is unregulated.[2] This is untrue. What is true is the UK has done much less at imposing existing powers that could be used to restrict EU migration than other EU countries, such as France and Germany.
It has been alarming to see the continued exodus of British citizens, which I have also written about repeatedly.[3] Net migration not only includes estimates of foreign students, but British citizens. Neither should be included lest it incentivizes the government to encourage more UK citizens to leave to achieve a net migration drop, that is justified as an attempt at improving public confidence.
Of course, the biggest problem with net migration is that it does not address the root issues. The public’s concern – rightly or wrongly – with immigration has much more to do with perceptions of their adverse impact on access to public services. A cut in migration numbers is thought to lead to shorter A&E queues, more available housing or better job prospects. Putting aside the issue of underinvestment in public services, less migration is likely to counterintuitively contribute to more adverse impact. Migrants in A&E are more likely to be the doctors and nurses than patients – fewer of the former will lead to longer waiting times for the latter. And so on. Cutting net migration may well fuel further anti-immigration sentiment based on an intuitive, but false, perception of how migration impacts on public services.
  1. How should the UK address skills shortages which are currently met by EU migration?
I strongly recommend significantly reforming the Migration Advisory Committee. The MAC is a group of five economists providing macroeconomic advice. The government would benefit far more than a slightly expanded MAC including 2-3 additional experts in law and social policy that could help assess the wider social impacts of changes. This is currently overlooked. Plus, the MAC should provide more evidence on microeconomic impacts on regions.
Such a reformed MAC would be better placed to assess where skills shortages are locally as well as nationally with a view to the wider potential impacts.
  1. Should a post-Brexit immigration policy seek to reflect regional variations?
Yes. I would strongly recommend a national quota system for Tier 1 and 2 visas with additional quota made available by region on evidence-based application for this additional quota by regions. This would keep the standard sufficiently high in terms of accountability and transparency. Too rarely do we hear our elected officials espouse the known benefits that immigration has brought to Britain. This system would share this responsibility nationally and locally while engaging the public to support such cases.
5.       To what extent will trade and immigration arrangements be linked in the negotiations and in the legal text on the UK’s future relationship with the EU?
This is uncertain at present, but migration can regularly feature in such arrangements. I would expect it to feature here.
  1. What are the likely trade-offs?
This will depend on which arrangement is agreed.
7.       Could the UK seek to continue to participate fully in the Single Market while satisfying public demand for control of immigration?
Yes and no. Some segments of the public have been led to believe that the Single Market’s “free” movement means uncontrolled mass migration. They will not be satisfied.
But this view rests on a substantive mistake about “free” movement. Like any freedom (such as free speech or free assembly), there are reasonable restrictions to its use. The EU’s “free” movement is not a right to go here or there at will, but a freedom of labour to cross borders. There is no unconditional right of travel, benefits acquisition or permanent settlement. Some countries like the UK might choose to not utilise the full range of existing powers than others like Germany, and this may contribute to the false belief that freedom of movement is anarchic. Such a perception can and should be challenged. The government could ensure less abuse of the system, etc if it wanted to while remaining in the Single Market. Other EU countries manage this with greater migration flows. There is no reason to think the UK could not do so too.
  1. What controls to EU migration or employment, additional to those currently used, are presently available to the UK Government within the single market and what might be the impact were they to be adopted by the Government? What measures are used in other EU countries?
The European Commission lists the rules here:
9.       Would there be benefit in any future deal between the UK and the EU containing an ‘emergency brake’ or similar safeguarding clause? If so, what might such a provision look like and how might it be activated?
No. The issue would be justifying the activating threshold. If this was not suitably robust, it would be difficult to defend. If every country could pull the brake (so to speak) willy nilly, then it would undermine any shared system.
However, if there could be found an agreed threshold, this could make such a scheme potentially workable.
  1. What kind of emergency brake might be available within an EEA type framework?
See previous answer.
11.    What UK/EU immigration controls would be possible in a free trade agreement, what relevant precedents exist and what would be the likely trade-offs if the UK pursued an FTA?
See answer to 8.
  1. What would be the advantages and disadvantages of having the same immigration arrangements for EEA and non-EEA citizens? Would it be practical to apply existing non-EEA rules to EEA citizens after Brexit?
I would recommend treating EEA and non-EEA citizens differently, as an individual originally a non-EEA citizen. The UK has had a deep, longstanding relationship with the EEA sharing a common citizenship framework. There are common systems, standards and understandings above and apart from many other non-EEA countries. Plus there are benefits to providing a more beneficial scheme given both the proximity of the EU market to the UK and the interest of UK citizens wanting reciprocal rights in the EEA.
I would recommend this is formalised in a new Tier 6 visa scheme. I would also recommend including some Commonwealth citizens especially post-Windrush – and for the same reason of sharing a deep, longstanding relationship. Less than 100 years ago, Citizens of the UK and Colonies was a shared passport from the Caribbean to Cumbria and beyond. This should not be forgotten for its significance in contributing to British identity, and neither should Britain’s place in EU be forgotten or overlooked.
  1. Is visa liberalisation likely to be a priority for the UK’s trade partners in any potential future FTA negotiations? To what extent can the UK hope to strike trade deals without migration provisions of some kind?
It is difficult to see free trade deals of the kind discussed by ministers lacking any migration provision.
14.    Is there evidence that free movement has had a negative impact on workers’ pay and conditions in the UK? If so, to what extent could such issues be addressed by reforms to labour market regulations? Are there relevant practices from other EU countries that the UK could adopt should such reforms be required?
The main negative impact has been in temporary work in the agrarian economy. Labour market regulations could be reformed, but prices at supermarkets would likely rise.
  1. What steps should the UK take to encourage UK businesses to employ workers already resident in the UK?
The best step is to invest more substantially in education. The UK will flourish from being a world leader. This means attracting the best talent, but also developing homegrown talent of equal or better quality. Closing ourselves off will not raise our competitiveness nor improve future prosperity.

[1] See Thom Brooks, ‘May doesn’t have to wait for Brexit to cut immigration’, The Times (11 April 2017).
[2] See Thom Brooks, Becoming British: UK Citizenship Examined. London: Biteback Publishing. 2016.
[3] See Thom Brooks, ‘Mrs May must urgently address the exodus of UK citizens or risk undermining Brexit’s potential’, The Daily Telegraph (24 August 2017), Thom Brooks, ‘Theresa May’s strict immigration rules are keeping numbers down – by driving British citizens out’, The Independent (26 April 2017) and Thom Brooks, ‘Net migration is a hollow victory’, The Times (26 May 2017).

Friday, July 27, 2018

External examiners: expert viewpoint or out of date?

This is what I had to say of the UK's external examining system for the Times Higher Education magazine (the piece and a symposium can be found here):

‘In place of external examining as it currently operates, let’s introduce more rigorous programme reviews’

External examining is no longer fit for purpose.

The problem is not the increasing numbers of student assessments to review or degree programmes to check. It is the failure of universities to increase their resources for external examination in proportion with the sector’s expansion. They largely still pay the same paltry fee for the same few hours of externals’ time as they always did.

The result is that, apart from for dissertations, externals can rarely alter individual marks any longer. They simply don’t have the time to go through them all. So they are limited to either agreeing with everything, warts and all, making some systematic adjustment to marks, or calling for everything to be done again. In my experience, they typically approve just about everything without change, confining themselves to making various comments – usually enormously helpful – on how modules and programmes might be improved further.

Some colleagues argue that we should turn back the clock. If external examining is becoming too much of a rubber-stamp process, we need to increase the powers, time commitment and remuneration of externals, so they can do the job they once did. However, it is unclear how many colleagues would be willing to take on such an onerous task, even with greater compensation.

The right-of-centre think tank Reform argues that national standards should be guaranteed by pegging the distribution of degree classifications on particular courses to their students’ performance in national final-year assessment for each subject. This would seemingly cut out external examiners altogether, but it is a thoroughly bad idea as it would stifle innovation in curriculum design while encouraging teaching to the test.

Universities all claim to engage in some form of research-led or informed teaching. Yet many regulators and managers place research and teaching in different silos. If teaching should have parity with research, then it is high time it was considered in tandem with it.

So I’d propose a US-inspired approach. Let’s leave the annual ritual of marking and exam boards to academic departments and universities. In place of external examining as it currently operates, let’s introduce more rigorous programme reviews, involving external input, every five or so years.

Crucially, these would consider a department’s teaching and research strategies together, in terms of how they cross-pollinate to shape the curriculum.

Such reviews could feed into departmental planning and be of even more use than comments in the truncated tick-box forms used by examiners at present. What we have is formal sign-off that all is well; what we need is genuine challenge to improve.
Bureaucratic micromanagement for its own sake is not the road to climbing in
ternational league tables, reassuring students that their education is world class, or assuring employers that our graduates are ready for any challenge. It’s time we moved on.

Thom Brooks is dean of Durham Law School.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Chancellor must make immigration system self-funded and sustainable in post-Brexit budget

The Chancellor Philip Hammond has an opportunity to get Britain’s immigration system into a more Brexit-ready shape if he has the political courage – and economic nous – to do it. We will find out either way tomorrow, but here’s the issue. Whatever Brexit will mean in terms of any final deal, there is a strong likelihood it could profoundly impact how the immigration system works. This is no bad thing. The Home Office requires urgent reforms and public support for new immigration controls helped win the referendum for Brexit. Change is needed.

But these changes come at a cost. Britain will need to find funding support – and fast – for more border agents and new border controls, especially if the UK is out of the EU single market and customs union. No free movement from Europe means restrictions to and from Britain must work differently. Only yesterday, the Independent reported the Home Office might be forced to hire European workers to register EU nationals without increases in staffing. Yet problems remain for where the funding might come from without increasing taxes on the public.

I recommend the Chancellor takes a bold step by making the immigration system fully self-funded on a sustainable footing. If the system could stand on its own feet funded entirely by fees set on immigration-related applications, this could help raise the profile of migrants by ensuring they do not take a penny from taxpayers – any funding for immigration-related activities is created within the immigration system.

The system’s fees are big business. Immigration-related income raises over £2 billion each year. At least £106 million was raised and spent on non-immigration matters in a consolidated fund according to the Home Office’s annual report of accounts for last year. If Hammond is looking for cash that could help pay for more agents or new controls post-Brexit, the current immigration system could pay for itself in a sustainable way at a critical time.

Home Office figures show how reliant it has become on immigrants to fund non-migration services. For example, the annual surplus earned from border, immigration and citizenship services in 2014-15 was more than £468 million. This was enough to absorb an overall deficit of £266 million leaving an overall surplus of £200 million or more. The truth is that immigration isn’t just helping sustain the British government, but their application fees keep the Home Office afloat with much of the funding earned spent on anything but migration. This is a mistake.

The public has voiced concerns about immigration for being uncontrolled long before the vote for Brexit. Britain’s leaving the European Union will impose costs at least in the short-term for border management and security whatever the new deal in place might be. The UK must be prepared and part of its plans must include funding reserves that can enable the delivery of a new immigration strategy.

The Chancellor has an opportunity he should grasp to ring fence immigration as a self-funded zone that must live within its means on a sustainable basis with no recourse to public funding. This is a promise he can make for a system that needs more of the funding it is already generating to support significant reforms in the short-term. The only question is whether there is enough political will to act now before it is too late. The biggest cost to be paid is to ending the view of migrants as a cash cow to be milked benefiting other pet projects. This is a price worth paying.

Thom Brooks is Dean of Durham Law School @thom_brooks

Friday, July 06, 2018

Brooks on Trump - at Peoples, Pits and Politics

I'm thrilled to be speaking about "What’s Wrong With Donald Trump?" at @peoplepitspoli next Friday at 2pm. Tickets here:

Friday, June 29, 2018

Congrats to the Durham Law School class of 2018!

My message to students:

Dear students,
On behalf of my Durham Law School colleagues, I wanted to write to everyone and congratulate you on your outstanding success this graduation day. We’re a top 5 UK law school ranked in the top 50 internationally. Our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes from LLB to PhD have high entry standards and our degrees are highly valued world-wide. This is all partly thanks to the hard work of our academic and support staff, but also partly thanks to the hard work of all you during your studies.
One of my particularly enjoyable tasks as Dean is meeting with firms, chambers and other employers. These visits are so enjoyable for me because I hear from everyone I meet about how impressed they are by the quality of our programmes and the students they produce.

But I enjoy even more reaching out to our brilliant alumni and hearing about their happy and memorable times at Durham, but their continuing life-long interest in the rising success of our Law School. Your being a member of our Law School might have started when admitted, but it does not end at graduation. I encourage everyone to please keep in touch and let us know how we might be in touch with you about Law networking events and more in the UK and around the world that are a new permanent feature of how we will connect and support our students from entry throughout their careers.

You’ll know we always welcome our graduates back – from Lord Hughes and Lady Black on the Supreme Court as well as Lord Justice McFarlane on the Court of Appeal (who receives an honorary doctorate this afternoon) to partners, trainees, barristers-in-training and much more – because we care about your success. Your stories will inspire our future students just as our alumni’s stories have inspired you.

Your alma mater is moving in the right direction. We are increasing academic staff and expanding options, starting with Chinese Law on the LLB in Michaelmas. We’ll be launching the UK’s largest Centre for Chinese Law this autumn. From September, BARBRI will hold on-site tutorials for the New York State Bar Exam (and the California State Bar Exam) at Grey College – more info:  And there is more to announce soon.
So many congratulations to you all from all of us in Durham Law School! Please keep in touch and we wish you every success for the future.
Warmest wishes,

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The SQE is like Brexit. Public didn't ask for it, it promises everything but hasn't existed yet - and might not even happen

This is a sketch of my TED talk for Legal Cheek's Future of Legal Education Conference delivered in London on 23 May 2018:

Like Brexit, the SQE is causing upheaval. It could make things worse rather than better and may not even happen.

There are many parallels between Brexit and the SRA's SQE.

The decision to hold a referendum was not driven by public demand. Leaving the EU was not one of the top 10 demands by the public prior to PM Cameron calling a referendum. It was mostly about an internal matter of keeping Tories unified and killing off support for Ukip which was hampering Tories at the polls.

Likewise, neither firms nor universities asked for the SQE. This is mostly about an internal matter about the SRA and its own perception of how it plans to regulate in future.

We know more about what Brexit is not than what it might do. But what it might do is anything and everything that sounds good. More freedom, greater sovereignty, taking back control. How? Well, there's nothing yet to point to as it hasn't happened nor is there a deal.

Likewise, the SQE is claimed to improve access, raise standards, etc. But no exam has been written or even provider chosen to write the exam which doesn't yet exist. Much of its justification rests on its effects - and without anything in existence it's all question begging. No wonder the LSB has refused to approve its use before it exists. The many promises need to have some evidence first.

The more we learn about details concerning Brexit the less appealing it looks to even many of its original supporters. Details around Customs and the Northern Ireland border a case in point.

Likewise, the SQE is supposed to be raising standards missing in young trainees. But what of the QLD did the SRA not like? I know of no reports of anyone seeing a lecture, reading a module guide or even taking a look at a hand-out. There is little to no knowledge about what's actually happening in our classrooms which makes the certainty for a change all the more suspicious.

Since the BSB is keeping the QLD, many law schools will keep teaching the QLD subjects so students can qualify to train for the Bar. But with the SQE demanding different content from the QLD, this means that a degree programme already about 50% fixed becomes even more fixed with additional required content. This content will concern more practical, and it seems less academic, issues. And it will drive out areas like comparative and international law modules precisely at the time our students need to be ready for a global world.

(It is also revealing in new research discussed at the conference this morning about what law firms most want but don't get that none of this covered by the SQE - despite the fact the SQE is supposed to ensuring this gap is covered by it. In fact, the opposite.)

While there is a kind of inevitability about Brexit, much could cause it to go off the tracks or stop. We hear of transition periods and they get longer and longer.

Likewise, the SQE's roll-out changes again and again. Just before I spoke, we've heard the SRA claim that the transition period looks set to grow longer again now too. But what if it didn't happen? It seems to me this would do no harm - and probably a lot of good.

If we want to raise standards or improve diversity, we don't need a multiple choice exam to achieve it. In fact, such an exam might undermine doing so. It can be far easier to use the existing framework which looks at widening participation, employability, salaries, etc than creating an exam from scratch.

If only the SRA would have the leadership to think again. There is a constructive dialogue waiting to happen between the SRA, BSB, firms, universities and more to ensure the UK continues to have a global leading legal educational system. But proceeding with a SQE for internal SRA-related reasons doesn't improve things for students learning law, for universities educating students, for firms hiring graduates or the profession in the long-term.


Friday, May 18, 2018

Royal Wedding - what Meghan Markle needs to know to become British

1 day until the Royal wedding, so I guess that means Megan Markle is a British citizen now... right? Here is the definitive guide to the most hotly disputed issue in the UK today. The essential roadmap for the immigration debate 👑🇬🇧

Friday, April 27, 2018

Quoted in celebrity section of The Washington Post

So why? Obviously because about Meghan Markle and the UK citizenship test she'll have to take in the near future. Details here.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

House of Lords select committee accepts several recommendations

After many years of campaigning for changes to the citizenship and immigration rules, I was delighted to see this select committee report -- accepting most of my key recommendations that would help transform the system for the better.

The report:

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Thom Brooks Channel - YouTube


Watch my new Thom Brooks channel on YouTube. Includes live interviews, media appearances and more.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Being British

Much fun to be part of this short student film on "Being British" exploring British identity and that bad pub quiz, otherwise known as the UK citizenship test - HERE.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Brexit: a house of cards – and unlikely to address deeper issues behind Brexit vote, says Thom Brooks

My statement to press:

“Britain’s Brexit deal so far is like a house of cards. The government has so many red lines we know more about what it doesn’t want than what it can achieve. Northern Ireland’s border is a problem everyone knew about it from the start, but will be left until the end – with the EU making clear anything agreed requires PM honours commitment to a borderless NI. But her red line against a customs union could be the undoing of any deal – leaving too little time for the UK to get an alternative infrastructure in place.
Brexit also doesn’t mean Brexit. The key promises of Vote Leave won’t happen not least because the PM said so after the vote.
But does Brexit matter for the voters who wanted it? I’m doubtful. The key concern for Leavers wasn’t taking back control of borders or sovereignty, but taking back control period. Many feel alienated, not listened to, left behind. Brexit was about sending a message. There is deep insecurity about the future regarding housing, education and employment. Leave supporters haven’t budged much despite one promise being broken after another because, I believe, Brexit was about something more than Brexit – it was a call for change and a desire to make voices heard. That’s what is important.
This makes Brexit all the more challenging. Getting the best deal may not be enough to please those that supported leaving the EU if it leaves them worse off – further feeding a sense of disconnection and alienation.”

Friday, March 23, 2018

Good luck with the British citizenship test, Meghan Markle. It’s a mess

. . . is my latest column, this time for The Guardian -- read here.

Dean of Durham Law School headline speaker at Future of Legal Education and Training Conference with Lord Briggs

Professor Thom Brooks, the Dean of Durham Law School, will be a keynote speaker at the Future of Legal Education and Training Conference in a “star-studded roster”. The event hosted by Legal Cheek takes place on 23 May at King’s Place London. Other speakers include Lord Briggs (Supreme Court), Isabel Parker (Freshfields), Julie Brannan (SRA), Vanessa Davies (BSB) and Shruti Ajitsaria (Head of Fuse, Allen & Overy). Brooks said: “I’m delighted to address the premier legal education conference this year alongside the leading advocates and reformers in the country. I am especially thrilled that the ground-breaking work we’re doing at Durham is receiving such attention.”


Friday, February 09, 2018


Saudi Arabia is opening the door for more women to practice law thanks to a new programme launched by a Durham University graduate. The Prince Sultan University will be providing the first legal training for women law graduates in Saudi Arabia. The first cohort of twenty-five women will undertake a four-week programme.

This new programme is led by the university’s law school dean Dr Ibrahim Al-Hudaithy, a graduate of Durham Law School.

It is not the first time Durham’s law alumni have broken new ground for women lawyers in this country. In 2013, Durham Law School graduate Raya Al-Khatib became only the fifth woman to be granted a license to practice law in Saudi Arabia following her graduation.

Professor Thom Brooks, Dean of Durham Law School, said that ‘we are proud to see our graduates as pioneers championing the cause of opening legal practice to women in Saudi Arabia. A very welcome first step on a long journey and we are delighted to see our former students leading the way internationally’.


Thursday, February 01, 2018

Durham Law School congratulated in UK Parliament

Local MP Dr Roberta Blackman-Woods issued an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons on 30 January 2018 congratulating the Law School on our 50th Anniversary. See it here:

Friday, January 19, 2018

Friday, January 12, 2018

Citizenship test might be available in Cornish and not Scots Gaelic or Welsh -- but why?

The government revealed they might allow individuals to sit the UK’s citizenship test in Cornish. This was announced in response to a question by Baroness Smith of Basildon, a Labour Peer and Shadow Leader of the House of Lords. The move is all the more surprising because it appears the government’s decision to consider a test in Cornish came after Smith’s question — suggesting this was not a change being planned previously.

In 2014, the Tory-led coalition government granted protected minority status for the Cornish. Its effect is that the government and public bodies are required to consider the equality of the Cornish in decision-making alongside previously recognised protected groups: the Scots, Welsh and Irish. Few commentators believed this announcement carried much significance beyond its symbolism at the time.

The exception was me. An immigration law expert, I recognised that this change granting the Cornish protected equal treatment with the Scots, Welsh and Irish would mandate significant changes to the Life in the UK citizenship test which carries virtually no mention of Cornish history or culture. It does require test applicants to know the patron saints, flags, national foods and more for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. No revisions have yet been made to the test since its current third edition was published in 2013 — the year prior to this change.

Replying to Smith’s parliamentary question, Baroness Williams of Trafford said Theresa May’s government “will consider whether it would be appropriate to make the test available in Cornish as part of the protected minority status”. Williams is Minister of State for the Home Office and a Tory Peer.

The government’s response is hugely surprising. Since the test was first launched, it could be taken in English, Scots Gaelic or Welsh. My research was the first to reveal that the test was sat only once in Scots Gaelic and never in Welsh. The coalition government ended all non-English citizenship tests since October 2013 — which did not raise objections in Parliament by either Plaid Cymru or SNP.

Why is the government considering launching the UK citizenship test in Cornish — when it only recently stopped producing it in Scots Gaelic or Welsh?

The only explanation appears to be that the government does not fully grasp the implications for granting the Cornish protected minority status. This does not in fact require producing the test in Cornish since it is not produced in Scots Gaelic or Welsh — and so the Cornish would not lack equality with the Scots or Welsh. But what it does mandate is information about the Cornish flag, patron saint, history and more are included in the citizenship test or the government risks continuing to breach their protected minority status. Not even Cornish pasties get a mention. This must change.

I would not be surprised if the government was not challenged on this point shortly. After several years of inaction, time is running out and they may be forced to make a change if an appeal is made.

Otherwise, the government is at risk of creating an unnecessary anomaly launching tests in the smallest British language while ending it for more popular alternatives. The Scottish and Welsh nationalists didn’t protest when the change to English-only citizenship tests was introduced. I expect this will change should the test be in Cornish but their regional languages.

In short, this is yet another problem of the government’s own making. It need not have changed how tests are produced, declared a new protected status or make what appears to be an error in responding to Smith’s parliamentary question. But they have and such shambolic handling of nationality rules shows their lack of attention to detail on citizenship and immigration issues more generally symbolising a lack of seriousness about one of the public’s biggest concerns.

Friday, January 05, 2018

PRESS RELEASE: Citizenship test might be available in Cornish but not Scots Gaelic or Welsh, says government

Citizenship test might be available in Cornish but not Scots Gaelic or Welsh, says government

For immediate release – Friday, 5 January 2018

-With picture-

*TV and radio broadcast facilities available*

The government revealed they might allow individuals to sit the UK’s citizenship test in Cornish. This was announced in response to a question by Baroness Smith of Basildon, a Labour Peer and Shadow Leader of the House of Lords.

In 2014, the Tory-led coalition government granted protected minority status for the Cornish. An immigration law expert, Professor Thom Brooks at Durham University, said at the time this change required significant revisions to the Life in the UK citizenship test because the Cornish were to have equal treatment with other protected groups like Scots, Welsh and Irish. Yet no changes have been made to the citizenship test since its current third edition was published in 2013.

Replying to Smith’s parliamentary question, Baroness Williams of Trafford said Theresa May’s government “will consider whether it would be appropriate to make the test available in Cornish as part of the protected minority status”. Williams is Minister of State for the Home Office and a Tory Peer.

The government’s response has caught many by surprise. Professor Brooks said: “It’s remarkable to discover the government is considering the production of citizenship tests in Cornish not long after they stopped making tests in Scots Gaelic or Welsh. Either they don’t understand what their granting Cornish protected status requires or they risk creating an unnecessary anomaly launching tests in the smallest British language while ending it for more popular alternatives.”

Originally launched in 2005, the Life in the UK citizenship test was available in English, Scots Gaelic and Welsh until October 2013. It is now only produced in English. There were no objections raised in Parliament to this change by Plaid Cymru or the SNP. According to research by Brooks, only one non-English test was sat in Scots Gaelic and none in Welsh.

Brooks said: “Protected status is not about putting the test into more languages, but adding more balance. Cornish culture and history are virtually absent from the test – not even Cornish pasties are mentioned. If they are to have the equality afforded to them, the test must change to reflect this move. Government has dragged its feet for too long and their response is shambolic”.


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My submission to the Boundary Commission - Sedgefield

I'm going public with my individual response to the Boundary Commission consultation regarding proposed changes to the Sedgefield constituency submitted in a private capacity:

I submit two objections to the current proposals under consideration:

First, there appears no clear rationale for changing the name of the constituency from "Sedgefield" to "Billingham and Sedgefield". The Labour Party's official response was correct to argue that name changes should only be made when necessary.

Secondly, there appears no clear rationale for adding Billingham to the constituency. Under the current proposals, "Billingham and Sedgefield" will have more people (78,205) than any of the surrounding constituencies - see Hartlepool 77,215; Redcar and Cleveland 72,951; Middlesbrough and Eston 76,979; Stockton and Yarm 75,818; Darlington 74,929; City of Durham and Easington 77,002 and Bishop Auckland 71,135.

Retaining Billingham creates an extended boot-shaped area that looks - and feels - gerrymandered. Removing it would decrease voter size of constituency, but would keep Sedgefield above minimum. Either "Stockton and Yarm" (first preference) or "Middlesbrough and Eston" (second preference) would make a better fit.

Wynyard Village is on a peninsula part of Hartlepool which at least looks artificial. It would work better to put this within Sedgefield -- and for Sedgefield to keep the Trimdons north of Fishburn. This would unify Wynyard and Wynyard Village in the same constituency without dividing them (and dividing the community) as the current proposals support. Plus, Fishburn and the Trimdons (Grange, Colliery, Village) have historic ties with Sedgefield. Not only are they together now in the constituency, but major home construction in the area brings these areas together providing a form of communal coherence that these proposals disrupt. This should be avoided.

Adding some local villages that have strong communal ties while separating off Billingham (not in the constituency now anyway) would leave "Sedgefield" a geographically wide constituency, but provide greater communal coherence, produce a less radical redrawing of a well known constituency map avoiding artificial gerrymandered-looking boundaries and it could avoid separating the Wynyards or dividing the Trimdons.