Professor Amelia Hadfield’s response and corrections to Daily Mail article

In response to a Daily Mail article entitled ‘Students afraid of being marked down if they support Brexit in essays: Some undergraduates say they fear debate being ‘shut down’ by pro-Remain lecturers, published both online and in hard print on Monday 30th October, Professor Amelia Hadfield has written the following letter for the attention of the Daily Mail Editorial Board. The article primarily focused on concerns from select students at Universities relating to the impartiality of teaching on Brexit; but also included a sub-feature on the Jean Monnet Chair and the recent essay competition run by the Centre for European Studies (CEFEUS) at Canterbury Christ Church University. The following is a copy of the letter submitted at 13:00 today:

Dear Sir,

I’m delighted to correct a few points from today’s Mail Online article by Eleanor Harding and Tom Witherow.

First, the Jean Monnet structure. This is an international mark of distinction for excellence in teaching, awarded to academics the world over who engage in high-quality, innovative and critical teaching. Its objectives “promote excellence in teaching and research in the field of European Union studies worldwide” both on EU issues as well as the study of Europe in its entirety.  

Jean Monnet scholars are therefore responsible for promoting world-class teaching and research on Europe, objectively and analytically. Not for promoting the EU, or attitudes for or against it. Our goal is pedagogic, not polemic. We teach our students to think, write and speak intelligently on the basis of fact, rather than fiction, using evidence, rather than emotion.   

Second, our 2017 Blog Competition was open to all our incoming Freshers, and due to its success, Honours students. There was absolutely no pro-EU bias in the conditions. Students were encouraged to write on ANY aspect of European democracy, migration, security, identity, economics or Brexit-EU relations. Of the 12 winners, 4 wrote on Brexit, 3 on European identity, 2 on economic and fiscal matters, 2 on Austria and Spain, and 1 one foreign policy. Hardly a pro-EU outpouring. Indeed, the blogs reflects students’ ideas on the most salient issue of their generation. The awards were therefore made on the basis of insight and appraisal, whatever the student’s attitude to/against Europe.

Finally, students have a perfect right, and one enshrined in law, to express their opinion, whether they support or oppose EU integration, or Brexit itself. Jean Monnet structures are a key part of encouraging students to think critically and creatively about future UK-EU relations.

Best wishes

Professor Amelia Hadfield

Jean Monnet Chair in European Foreign Affairs, Director of the Centre for European Studies 

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Safeguarding Academic Freedom: A Response to Mr Heaton-Harris

By Professor Amelia Hadfield, Canterbury Christ Church University

On Tuesday 25th October 2017, The Guardian published an article entitled “Universities deplore ‘McCarthyism’ as MP demands list of tutors lecturing on Brexit”, regarding a letter written by Chris Heaton-Harris, MP for Daventry and Assistant Whip, to UK university Vice Chancellors. In the letter, Heaton-Harris asks for “names of professors involved with teaching of European affairs, with particular reference to Brexit. Furthermore, could (I) be provided with a copy of the syllabus and links to the online lecturers.”

At best, the request represents a moment of pure idiocy. At worst, as per Professor Kevin Featherstone, Head of the European Institute at the London School of Economics, it’s “McCarthyite” in nature… “It smacks of asking: are you or have you ever been in favour of remain? There is clearly an implied threat that universities will somehow be challenged for their bias.” [1] The outrage it provoked in universities and academic associations across Britain was impressive, but not surprising.

Conservative MP Chris Heaton-Harris and a copy of the letter to VCs as obtained by The Guardian

Continue reading “Safeguarding Academic Freedom: A Response to Mr Heaton-Harris”

The academic voice on Brexit must not be silenced

Dr Sarah Lieberman, Senior Lecturer in Politics & IR at Canterbury Christ Church University, comments on Chris Heaton-Harris’ request for names of academics teaching European politics and warns that the government must not be allowed to silence the voices of academics and experts on Brexit.

The news that the Chief Tory whip wants all academics working on European Politics or Studies to submit their syllabus, lecture plans and all online lectures relating to this area – presumably to be analysed for anti-Brexit sentiment – has left me both speechless and apoplectic with rage. The Right Honourable Chris Heaton-Harris has written to all British Vice-Chancellors and asked for names of those teaching European affairs, with particular reference to Brexit.

A copy of the letter by Conservative whip Chris Heaton-Harris to university VCs obtained by The Guardian

The Guardian notes that professors feel this may be ‘sinister’ or ‘McCarthyist’. The Guardian further notes that “within university departments focussing on European affairs Brexiters are a rarity”.

There may, after all be a reason so few academics, and specifically European politics / studies / affairs academics are pro-Brexit, and this reason is that they actually understand the politics behind the UK’s membership of the European Union.

These academics could tell you why the 27 Member States of the EU cannot discuss Brexit with Britain, and why a trade deal cannot be negotiated alongside the exit discussions. These academics have analysed the founding treaties of the European Union, and have analysed Article 50. These academics understand decision making in the European Union, and have spent years collecting the pros, the cons, the benefits and the downsides of membership. And, overwhelmingly, those academics, those experts who have devoted their working life to understanding this peace project, this trade body, this protectionist behemoth are overwhelmingly in favour of continued membership.

In the run up to the Brexit referendum, ‘experts’ were discredited. Experts were put into a category of suspicion, and experts included academics. This is a dangerous precedent to set, and one whose logical next step is Chris Heaton-Harris’ request.

I do not yet know what the UK’s Vice Chancellors will do: I hope in the spirit of equality and fairness that Mr Heaton-Harris will be told that if he wants to see lecture slides, he should pay his fees and attend class. I certainly hope that they will respond that lecturers should, can and do teach to their own expertise and will continue to do so. Any deviance from this position is a very dangerous place to find ourselves.

Do not fool yourselves. The government is trying to stifle opinion, trying to quieten academics and trying to quash all opposition. Do not allow this to happen.

Suspending One’s Disbelief: MEP Richard Ashworth and the Tribulations of Voting According to Conscience

The team of the CCCU Centre for European Studies – Director Prof Amelia Hadfield, Graduate Coordinator Noora Virtannen and Undergraduate Coordinate Christian Turner – analyse and comment on the suspension of Conservative MEP Richard Ashworth from party whip.

On Tuesday 3rd October 2017, a resolution was put forward by Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s representative on Brexit, that the negotiations surrounding Britain’s departure from the European Union were not yet advanced enough to justify moving onto Phase Two of the discussions: namely negotiating the future relationship between the two parties.

The non-bidding motion was comfortably passed by 557 votes to 92, with 27 abstentions. Of the 557 MEPs to vote for the motion, 26 were from the United Kingdom. Within this group of 26 UK MEPs, 18 were Labour, 3 Green, 1 Liberal Democrat, 1 Sinn Fein, 1 Plaid Cymru and finally, 2 from the Conservatives who sit within the ECR (European Conservative and Reforms Group). Four of these MPs represent the South East of England, including Labour’s newly selected John Howarth, who replaced Anneliese Dodds over the summer, and  Richard Ashworth, who has served in the ECR since 2009, and briefly led the Conservatives in the European Parliament itself between 2012-13.

Conservative MEP Richard Ashwort | image via http://www.richardashworth.org

On Sunday 8th October, it emerged that Ashworth (who represents 9 counties as part of the South East) and his party colleague, Julie Girling (South West), had the Tory party whip withdrawn after the vote. The removal of the party whip means that for the duration of their suspension, Ashworth and Girling will not be considered members of the Conservative Party, and therefore technically sit as independents. In addition, they will lose access to the party machinery, related to media, staff and funding, and in extreme cases, can be a cause to be deselected for future elections. Dan Dalton, the Conservative Party Chief Whip in the European Parliament, wrote to the pair that the reasons for the suspension were as follows:

“The Brexit negotiations are the most important negotiations our country faces and reaching a new partnership with the European Union is in the interests of both the UK and the EU.  The resolution by the European parliament sought to delay progress in the negotiations between the UK and the EU by holding back talks on the future relationship. Given the seriousness of this issue I am suspending the Conservative whip from you until further notice.” (The Guardian, October 2017)

Mr Ashworth responded by insisting that this was ‘not a vote against Brexit (nor) a vote to derail or obstruct negotiations’. He added that the negotiations ‘need to urgently move on to trade… however, it is my view that we have not yet made sufficient progress on phase one’.

Continue reading “Suspending One’s Disbelief: MEP Richard Ashworth and the Tribulations of Voting According to Conscience”

UK-EU Brexit Negotiations: Explaining dark matter to a four-year-old

As one of its last activities in the 2014-17 cycle, the Jean Monnet Chair of Professor Amelia Hadfield ran a blog competition for full-time first year undergraduate students in politics. The post below is one of the eight winning undergraduate entries. First year BSc Politics student Thomas James reflects on the complexity of UK-EU Brexit negotiations.

The distribution of dark matter, galaxies, and hot gas in the core of the merging galaxy cluster Abell 520 | image via hubblesite.org

It’s often not until things happen, that their inevitability seems obvious. But the lack of progress and sluggish nature of the Brexit negotiations was something that was always very likely to happen. The sheer monumental nature of the task before those charged with finding a way to successfully concluding the discussions is mindboggling. Trade, security, free movement, single market, customs union… the list goes on and on… and on.

Each point taken individually is complex enough; as a collective it wouldn’t be unfair to compare it to trying to explain dark matter to a four-year-old.

On the British side, Theresa May leads an increasingly fractured cabinet with disagreements more the norm than the opposite. The public can hardly help but be a little perplexed by all this. Hard Brexit, soft Brexit, green Brexit and even a red white and blue Brexit have been tabled as possibilities and it would seem that at present the government’s position is to pick one of them out of a hat, cross their fingers and hope for the best. It is safe to say that no one saw any of this coming. The Vote Leave team would go down to a hard-fought defeat and all would go on merrily as before. Except, leave won, we’re leaving the EU and no one has any idea what on earth is going on.

The EU, and indeed the wider world, must be wondering how we ever managed to defeat Napoleon, carve out one of the biggest empires in history, win two world wars and then be duped by a tweed-wearing man called Nigel into thinking that indeed all foreigners, especially the European variety (conveniently forgetting that we are indeed still European), are all very nasty people, best avoided and of the sort that we certainly don’t want over here.

To be fair, the EU does have Jean-Claude Junker so we don’t have a monopoly on the idiotic (I’m of course writing this in the wrong language for Jean-Claude because as we’re all aware English is dying out). But even with Jean-Claude at the helm of the commission, the EU’s position is exponentially clearer than that of Britain’s. Single market access means accepting free movement, there will be a divorce bill and no, trade talks can’t run simultaneously alongside the exit negotiations, period. Meanwhile on our side of the Channel, we have a Chancellor that thinks this is really all very foolish, a foreign secretary who just does and says whatever he wants and a Brexit Secretary who’s probably wondering what the hell he’s done and got himself involved in. And at the helm a Prime Minister who’s more akin to a stressed-out teacher trying to control an unruly class of teenagers in a dodgy inner-city comprehensive.

So, there’s a divided British cabinet, the other side is much better organised than our own, it’s all mind-bogglingly complex and it all needs to be wrapped up by March 2019. Fantastic!

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The Jean Monnet Chair Blog on Europe Competition:
Students could submit 500 word blog posts on any topic related to Europe – e.g. European democracy, European migration, European security, European identity, European economics or Brexit-EU relations – and winners were rewarded with a £250 book voucher for the CCCU Bookshop. The idea behind the competition was not only to support students financially in the first couple of weeks at CCCU, but also to encourage think about key issues that they will be studying over the course of their degree.

The full list of winners and their blog posts can be found here:  Jean Monnet Chair Blogs on Europe Competition