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

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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.

Sixth Summer School on Federalism, Multinationalism and the Future of Europe

The sixth edition of the CCCU and CIFE (Centre International de Formation Européene) summer school on ‘Federalism, Multinationalism and the Future of Europe’ took place in Canterbury between 13th and 24th of August. Bringing together twenty students from 11 different countries, including France, Germany, Myanmar, Nepal, Spain and the UK, students participated in a range of activities to develop and broaden their knowledge and understanding of federalism, both in theory and practice.

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Labour’s Brexit Strategy: Cut-&-Paste of Theresa May’s old promises?

This week, Labour revealed its Brexit strategy – Jack Brooks takes a closer look.

In the 10 months after the 23rd of June, the Labour party’s position on Brexit and what should happen next has been a bit… ‘undefined’ to say the least. They have been in an incredibly tough position of simultaneously wanting to appeal to the 63% of its voters that voted remain and not start any rebellions within the 218 out of 232 MPs that publicly supported remain, while also wanting to appeal to the 37% of its voters, 161 Labour held constituencies that voted leave and not hemorrhage any more of its working class support, a demographic that predominantly voted leave.

Having considered the above, it appears that Labour party HQ decided that their best course of action was to a) keep their head down, b) meekly try to appeal to both sides, while not really saying anything concrete, but c) mainly just oppose the government by saying. Of course, Labour was dealt a tough hand and this is a solid electoral strategy that, on the issue of the financial crash, saw the Liberal democrats sweep to 23% of the popular vote in 2010.

But then, like a renowned bandit brazenly slamming open the shutter doors to a sleepy Mid-western Saloon, Theresa May called a snap General election. The music stopped playing, everyone went silent and slowly turned their heads to the Sheriff who loudly gulped and realised it was his turn to say something… Sherriff Jeremy Corbyn was taken slightly aback and thus came out with a strategy that, with a few key differences, is basically the same plan the Conservative Government had in November.

First, let me know the few key differences:

  • Labour will not focus on new markets, instead focus on securing the UK’s existing trade ties, especially those with the EU
  • Labour will adopt a much more conciliatory tone with the EU27 in exit talks
  • Labour resolutely supports staying in: Erasmus, Euratom, the European Medical Agency, Europol & Eurojust
  • Labour promises to unilaterally protect EU citizens’ right to remain in the UK
  • Labour commits to not let the UK “lag behind EU in workplace protections or environmental standards in future”

These are a couple of added giveaways to Remainers that will certainly sweeten the Brexit blow for them, but in terms of the “real meat” of the last 10 months debate so far – ‘Hard Brexit versus Soft Brexit versus No Brexit – their position is the now infamous “having the cake and eat it too”-Brexit.

This is illustrated by statements by Keir Starmer in the same press conference on Tuesday:

  • He wants to rip up the Government White Paper and go for a “tariff-free trade with the EU, no new non-tariff barriers on trade, regulatory alignment and continued competitiveness in goods and services.”
  • However, he still rules out continued free movement, membership of the European Free trade area and Single market membership.

As Theresa May discovered to her dismay in January, these two things are incompatible as far as the European Union is concerned. When she proposed it as her plan, the EU27 said for all intent and purposes “We won’t agree with that and you will crash out with no deal”. An eventuality that Starmer said would be the “worst possible deal”.

Electorally, the Labour Brexit plan might make sense. Labour continues to (try to) appeal to both sides and win the election. Corbyn and his party will only need to deal with untangling the contradictory manifesto commitments after they have won.  Also why look a gift horse in the mouth? The blessing of being the opposition with staggeringly bad polling is that you don’t have to live in the bounds of reality (which is quite a lot of effort in any case). Nevertheless, if we do experience the largest polling mistake in modern history and Labour wins a majority, we need to expect a lot of back-paddling.

Jack Brooks is a 2016 Politics and International Relations Honours Graduate of Canterbury Christ Church University and graduate coordinator at the Centre for European Studies (CEFEUS) at CCCU.