Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit (II): reflections on the first weekend

Tcitizens-assembly-on-brexithe Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit has recently begun its work. The project’s director, Alan Renwick, Deputy Director of the UCL Constitution Unit, here offers some initial, personal reflections on a highly successful first weekend.



The Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit has just completed its first weekend of deliberations. As an earlier post explained, the Assembly is a gathering of people from across the UK who have been randomly selected to reflect the make-up of the electorate. They are meeting over two weekends to learn about options for the form Brexit should take – focusing on the issues of trade and immigration – discuss what they make of these options, and draw conclusions. Their proposals will be written up in a report and delivered to policy-makers in parliament and government.

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The Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit (I): design and purpose

citizens-assembly-on-brexit.jpgThe UCL Constitution Unit is leading a team running a Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit, which will meet over two weekends, starting with the weekend of 8–10 September. The Assembly will consist of around 45 UK citizens, selected to reflect the diversity of the UK electorate. Alan Renwick and Rebecca McKee explain how the Assembly will work and what it is hoped will be achieved.

The Constitution Unit is leading a team of academics and democracy practitioners who will run a Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit over the coming weeks. As the name suggests, a citizens’ assembly is a group of citizens who are chosen to reflect the diversity of the population at large and who gather to learn about, discuss, and draw conclusions on some aspect of public policy. The Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit provides an opportunity to shed light both on public priorities for Brexit and on the value of deliberative exercises in a polarised political context.

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Acquired rights and the ECJ

35512380606_f3aac90714_o.jpgIn the second blog post of the series on Brexit and the ECJ, Piet Eeckhout, Dean of UCL Laws and Academic Director of the UCL European Institute, discusses citizens’ acquired rights and ECJ jurisdiction post-Brexit. Assessing the EU’s position on the issue, he argues that, although rather extravagant at first glance, it is not as unreasonable as it may seem.

In the Brexit negotiations the EU insists on continued ECJ jurisdiction over the provisions of the withdrawal agreement concerning so-called acquired rights: the rights to free movement and non-discrimination (and many other rights) of EU citizens who at present live in the UK, and UK citizens living in the EU.  It’s a negotiating position which at first sight looks pretty extravagant.  By the time the withdrawal agreement enters into force the UK will have left the EU and its institutions, including the ECJ.  The proposal would presumably mean that, in matters of acquired rights, UK courts would continue to make references to the ECJ; and that the full force of EU law and of the Court’s rulings would continue to apply in these matters.  As has been noted this would be wholly unprecedented: no non-member state subjects itself to this kind of “direct” jurisdiction (though as I pointed out in my previous post on the ECJ and Brexit it is preferable to speak of an indirect jurisdiction).  The UK government rejects the proposal, pointing out that the UK courts are perfectly capable of enforcing these acquired rights.  What are we to make of these positions?

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Brexit and the ECJ red line

16216011058_e7b43faef3_o.jpgDExEU’s recent position paper on judicial overisght and the Brexit withdrawal agreement certainly left more room for ECJ jurisdiction continuing post-Brexit than has been previously indicated by the government. In this blog post, Piet Eeckhout, Dean of UCL Laws and Academic Director of the UCL European Institute, explores the functioning of the ECJ and its relationship with the legal systems of the member states. He argues that if the UK wants to continue cooperating in EU regulatory frameworks, programmes and initiatives, it will have little choice but to accept the jurisdiction of the ECJ. 

The Brexit negotiations have started, and it is becoming clearer by the day that the ECJ’s jurisdiction is a major issue.  That is not surpising as the ECJ was always the elephant in the room of the referendum debates.  Even if the Court’s role was never properly scrutinised in those debates, Brexiters managed to paint a picture of EU law and its Court ruling supreme.  The UK was no longer truly sovereign, UK courts were bound by Luxembourg, and control had to be taken back.

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Brexit is a golden opportunity for British fishing

35459779511_fa8db7a70a_o (1)In June 2017 the UCL European Institute hosted a public discussion on the impact of Brexit on fisheries and maritime policy. Aaron Brown, a skipper from pro-Brexit campaign group Fishing for Leave, was one of the speakers. Here, he outlines why Brexit could be a boon for UK fishermen, coastal communities and the wider economy. He stresses, however, that it is down to the government to act decisively in seizing this opportunity. 

With Brexit comes a golden opportunity. If we act decisively we can repatriate one of our nation’s greatest renewable resources, revitalise an industry of critical significance to coastal communities, and boost our nation’s food security. But there is a grave danger that all this will be sacrificed once again, squandered on vested interests, or wasted for political convenience (or appeasement to the EU).

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