Guest Talk – Dr Lorenzo Pasculli: The Impact of Brexit on Integrity and Corruption: Local and Global Challenges

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The talk was organised by the Commercial Law Unit and the International Law and Human Rights Unit on behalf of the Centre for Applied Legal Research.

On 14 February 2018 Dr Lorenzo Pasculli, Senior Lecturer in Law at Kingston University London challenged the audience to look at Brexit through the prism of corruption. No doubt this was an insightful and out of the ordinary guest talk for those who suffer from Brexit fatigue.

Dr Pasculli started by explaining that since Brexit or anything similar has never happened before it is difficult to find a theoretical framework to reveal what the consequences of Brexit will be on corruption. That being said, Dr Pasculli stressed that in his opinion Brexit has and will have an impact on integrity at a variety of levels as well as anti-corruption laws and policies.

In relation to integrity, the impact of Brexit can be felt in three areas: political, financial and commercial as well as systemic social. Dr Pasculli explained that the impact of Brexit on political integrity can be analysed at both macro- (ie public bodies, corporations and the media) and micro-level (ie individuals working in the public service) on the one hand and from an internal (ie British politics) and external (eg foreign affairs as well as other States) perspective. This risk factors relating to political integrity are chiefly due to the multiple and complex interests which create division as well as confusion and so mistrust that is amplified by what Dr Pasculli calls, ‘the wrong choice of decision-making device’ which was the referendum. At the internal micro-level there has always been a solid tradition of political integrity even when there were conflicts between personal views and the views of the party. The risk here is that if individuals externalise their dissent they might be reprimanded or marginalised for doing this (as it happened in some recent case). This might lead to the repression of pluralism and dissent. At the internal macro-level, the UK which is often viewed as the beacon of the rule of law is performing very poorly as politicians with undermined integrity did not explain the complexity of the issues and certain lobbying and media stained the Leave campaign of misinformation. Dr Pasculli pointed out that the lack of regulation of the British press exacerbated the influence of lobbies on certain press. The dearth of effective sanctions facilitates partisan press and political misinformation. Further the lack of mechanisms for politicians to step back, apologise for and correct the effect of misinformation on the general public (eg £350 million for the NHS campaign) undermines political integrity. Overall this atmosphere has led to (1) a phenomenon of deresponsabilisation; (2) reliance on emotions rather than reason and information when law and politics should be based on rationality, reasonableness and evidence; (3) general deterioration of political integrity and standing. The consequences of Brexit on external politics (outside the UK) should not be underestimated too. Discussions were had on possible emulations in the form of Grexit and Exitaly but they did not materialise. Most importantly Brexit has strengthened the global trends of populism and nationalism that clearly undermine political integrity as voters are given information that is not built and/or supported by evidence. Brexit, in other words, nurture the global trend of irrationality. After Dr Pasculli argued that this erosion of political integrity leads to ‘legalised forms of corruption’ (eg press being lobbied and lack of regulation of the press) he called for a widening of the definition of corruption in line with the anti-corruption convention. He highlighted the revolving door appointments as an example of lawful practice and stressed that research shows a disconnection between what people believe is unlawful and the actual regulation of particular activities. Dr Pasculli explained we should seize Brexit as an opportunity to raise awareness about these problems as well as ensure a better responsabilisation of certain politicians. Both internal and external pressure can be used to persuade the UK to adopt necessary regulatory measures.

Dr Pasculli then moved on to examine the impact of Brexit on financial and commercial corruption. Dr Pasculli started by explaining that the UK government has clearly explained that the UK will leave the single market even though the EU market is crucial. The conditions imposed by the European Union to the UK in relation to market access might be viewed by the general public as unreasonable and unfair. Such a perception could lead to a violation of legal rules, for there is a tendency to the rationalisation of corrupt practices when the law is seen as useless and/or unfair. This inevitably creates a subculture that encourages corruption more generally. Furthermore, Dr Pasculli observed that as the UK is looking to negotiate trade agreements with non-EU States it must be wary of such business opportunities. First a number of such countries do not comply with anti-money laundering and anti-corruption regulations. Second, companies might have to use corruption in order to pursue their business activities in corrupt-ridden countries. Looking at the countries mentioned by the UK government as potential business partners it is clear that the UK is looking at doing business in places that are high on the corruption index of Transparency International. In other words, British companies are going to move the trade to an environment which is more corrupt. As Dr Pasculli stressed, there is a need to raise awareness about this potential corruption threat. Nonetheless it might be possible to view these business opportunities in a positive light and argue that British companies could become exporters of good practices, strengthening the rule of law and global governance in these countries and more particularly in the Commonwealth.

In relation to systemic social integrity Dr Pasculli noted that the UK government is supporting high-skilled migration only. This, he believed, is extremely short-sighted. Research shows that corruption causes emigration, particularly of high-skilled migrants looking for opportunities in other countries as they are unable to move on in their home country. This however does not necessarily mean that high skilled migrants are immune to corruption. On the contrary studies demonstrate that immigration from corrupt countries boosts corruption in destination countries. As a result, Dr Pasculli suggested that to avoid the spread of corruption in the UK thorough background checks at the port of entry need to be carried out.

Is the UK continuing to be a global example in relation to anti-corruption practices? Dr Pasculli began by asserting that the UK has often been used as a model for anti-money laundering and anti-corruption measures and policies. The possibility of deregulation once outside the European Union might be viewed as a threat to the excellent contemporary regulation. Whilst some scholars argue that Brexit is a distraction from the anti-corruption agenda, Dr Pasculli contended that this is not necessarily the case. In fact in the past year a variety of institutions (eg the International Anti-Corruption Coordination Centre, the Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision) have been set up and strategies (eg anti-corruption strategy) and laws (Criminal Finances Act 2017, implementation of the fourth money-laundering directive) drafted and adopted.

Brexit will also have an impact on UK financial sanctions which could potentially lead to an increase in corruption and money-laundering practices. Dr Pasculli first observed that financial sanctions are imposed on individuals in relation to their access to financial assets and services and are imposed with a view to pursue specific foreign and national security policies. Then Dr Pasculli noted that at the moment such sanctions can be imposed by the United Nations Security Council, the European Union (often in implementation of UN Security Council resolutions) and the UK Office of Financial Sanctions. After Brexit there will be no need for the UK to comply with the EU sanctions regime anymore. Dr Pasculli underlined that the new Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill 2017-2019 endows the executive with large powers for a broad range of purposes (eg fighting measures that challenge the rule of law). Further, it is flanked by weak individual safeguards such as ex post judicial review and no jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union (which had in the Kadi case protected individuals’ human rights against the application of UN Security Council resolutions). Post-Brexit the UK will not be able to sit in EU meetings that relate to sanctions and as its strong voice on sanctions usually gathered support from other Member States it is argued that that without the UK taking part in such discussions divisions amongst EU member States might show more prominently. That being said if the UK imposes sanctions that are not aligned to other States it will feel the pressure of other States as well as companies that are trading in such States. This in turn might increase the potential for corruption.

Last but not least Dr Pasculli stressed that as the UK will be drafting a new raft of laws it must be careful that such laws are not providing opportunities for corruption and crime. Criminogenic lawmaking is indeed a potential risk post-Brexit with new schemes and laws being designed and individuals as well as companies finding ways to abuse or misuse such schemes (eg welfare benefit, taxes/fees/obligations, access to goods and services). Such potential for corruption is heightened if broad regulatory powers are given to authorities.

Looking forward Dr Pasculli shared with the audience his recommendations: (1) there must be some form of responsabilisation of politicians and companies, (2) education and ethicisation are key to maintaining integrity in public affairs, (3) ‘corruption proofing’ of legislation must become an established practice, (4) external controls must be increased.

 

PSU Murder Mystery Fundraising Event – March 21

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On March 21, a group of MA Event Management students are hosting a networking event with a twist. Join them for their Murder Mystery Networking Evening for anyone in the legal profession.

You will team up with to solve crime, whilst widening your connections in the legal field.

While benefiting from meeting and connecting with new individuals, all profit generated from the event will be provided the legal charity

Personal Support Unit (PSU). The PSU help individuals in the Bristol area who are facing legal processes alone by assisting them to represent themselves effectively in civil and family cases and tribunals. You can read more about their work here.

For just £12, you will receive admission to the Murder Mystery Networking Evening, along with a welcome drink and nibbles.

Come along to get to know new people whilst competing against your colleagues and friends to solve the murder the fastest – there is a prize for the quickest team!

Register here or find out more information here .

 

UWE Law students win big at two national mediation competitions

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Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) students, David Forster and Sara Harrison-Fisher, represented UWE Bristol at the Worshipful Company of Arbitrators Mediation Competition in London on 19-21 January, competing against teams from other Universities, trainee solicitors and pupils.

They walked away with prizes for the Best University Team and the Past Master Karl Davies Memorial Award which was awarded to the team with the Most Creative Solution.

Lucilla Macgregor who, along with her fellow BPTC tutor Sara Whiteley, mentored the pair in preparation for the competition said:

“David and Sara did extremely well in the face of stiff competition.  This is the second time in two years that UWE BPTC students have won a prize at this event, which gives them a fantastic opportunity to practice their advocacy and negotiation skills in front of accredited mediators”.

BPTC students and tutors

The following weekend saw Law undergraduates, Jade Trill, Callum Tucker, James Hathaway and Jack Kaczanowski, competing in the UK National Student Mediation Competition, held at ULaw in London.

The team won the awards for Best Mediation Team, Best Mediator (Jade) and Second Best Mediator (Callum), beating undergraduate and post-graduate teams from 16 universities around the UK.

Their coach, Rachel Wood, said:

“This is a fantastic achievement for the team, particularly as this is the first time we have entered the National Competition.  The students have studied mediation and practised their skills in our internal UWE Mediation Competition. It is wonderful to see their skills being recognised by professional mediators judging them in a national competition”.

UWE Bristol now expects to host the UK National Student Mediation Competition in January 2019.

Guest Talk – Professor Emily Reid: Securing the Future of the World Trade Organisation

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In November, Professor Emily Reid from Southampton Law School gave a guest talk entitled “Securing the Future of the World Trade Organisation“. Read the recap of the talk below:

For more than the last decade the WTO and ‘globalisation’ has been the subject of sporadic public protest, exemplified by events in Seattle in 1999. More recently, the last decade has seen in Europe a growing number of popular demonstrations against a range of trade and investment treaties such as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the EU and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and the EU. Frequently disquiet has focussed upon a perceived conflict between economic liberalisation or indeed globalisation itself and social or environmental values. Reference to these protests and public sentiment formed the backdrop to Professor Emily Reid’s guest talk at UWE on 1 November 2017. Prof Reid, an expert in international economic law and sustainable development, examined how the World Trade Organisation is defending and can defend such non-economic interests whilst still holding a liberal view of trade relations. Her passion for the subject is drawn from her previous work on how the European Union has managed to accommodate the protection of human rights and environment with economic liberalisation, and extrapolating from this the lessons which the global community might learn from that. (see E Reid, Balancing Human Rights, Environmental Protection and International Trade: Lessons from the EU Experience (Hart 2015))

Prof Reid began by noting the growing diversity of legal orders, pursuing a range of objectives, both economic and non-economic, highlighting that the interrelationship between social, environmental and trade elements is complex and evolving. Whilst these three elements can clash in particular instances, they are not inherently in conflict and in the longer term they are, indeed, mutually dependent, as is evident in the concept of sustainable development.

The broader question relates to the legitimacy of this economic organisation inasmuch as its policies and decisions have been the subject of criticism by some for failing to take sufficient account of human rights and environmental concerns. The fragmentation of international law with its variety of actors and self-contained regimes further complicates the task: who are the regulatory decision-makers? Wherefrom does their legitimacy stem? How are they accountable and to whom? These pressing concerns are no doubt difficult challenges for States operating in a new legal order, in which the role of the state is radically different to that under the ‘Westphalian’ order in which the WTO was created. How can the State in a Westphalian sense of the term deal with this multiplicity of actors? How can (local) democratic accountability be secured?

In addition, the international legal context has considerably evolved in the past decades as the WTO has had to engage with the emergence of new popular concerns, such as environmental protection, and their associated legal regimes. Indeed when the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was negotiated, the definition of ‘conservation of natural resources’ as an exception to the trade rules was understood in terms of mineral resources. The WTO has since, however, acknowledged that a modern understanding of the term was needed. Such recognition is crucial to the ongoing relevance and legitimacy of WTO law.

As global regulation is evolving and increasing, political and democratic demands are growing too. Contemporary political events (eg the vote for withdrawal of the UK from the European Union, the election of President Trump, the support for Le Pen in the French presidential elections) reflect a growing popular nationalism, and rejection of elements of globalisation: does this mark a transformative shift?

Prof Reid pointed out that the legal order that regulates economic relations is not only legally binding but also highly sophisticated in that it provides for binding dispute resolution. The pursuit of trade liberalisation requires a reduction of barriers to trade, yet national environmental regulation has the capacity to impede the application of WTO law, constituting as it can, a barrier to trade.

Thus Professor Reid identified the challenge for the WTO as being two fold – first, there is a challenge of legitimacy, and second, there is a need to re-establish and strengthen the balance between global economic integration and domestic regulatory autonomy. These carry implications for both the fact that the WTO addresses the balance between economic and non-economic interests and the manner in which it does so.

On the first, Prof Reid notes that it is significant that it is the WTO which is, by virtue of its dispute settlement mechanism, the sole adjudicator of the balance to be drawn between application of the WTO rules, and their relationship with national regulation. That the WTO, an economic organisation, is the organisation which determines the balance between trade liberalisation and national environmental regulation raises a number of legitimacy, and of accountability related questions. Prof Reid noted that there has been significant criticism regarding decisions made by economic bodies generally and the WTO more specifically, however she went on to note that on further investigation, some of this criticism is unfounded. The WTO Dispute Settlement Body has an obligation to apply the WTO rules, it has no jurisdiction to go beyond this, and would face questions of legitimacy were it to do so.

Prof Reid then turned her attention to examining how the WTO solves this conflict between on the one hand the rules of the WTO and its covered agreements, and on the other hand national environmental regulation. Has the WTO the competence to do so? If so, how has it taken on the challenge? After all, it is important that the WTO approaches the subject in such a manner that it meets the test of legitimacy as it otherwise opens itself up to further challenges.

In this light, Prof Reid argued that the WTO can indeed meet the challenge of legitimacy provided it (1) reinforces the non-discrimination paradigm (ie national treatment principle and most-favoured nation clause) and (2) re-examines the way in which it addresses the balance between economic and non-economic interests.

Prof Reid explained that initially the underlying objective of the WTO was to secure welfare gain for everyone. Later, imbued by a neo-liberal account, free trade became a goal in itself rather than a tool to reach other objectives. Illustrative of this development is Article 2.2 of the TBT agreement that provides that national regulatory measures must not only be non-discriminatory but also necessary. This is no doubt a manifestation of the neo-liberal thinking as both discriminatory and non-discriminatory regulatory measures must be justified. As a result the State is less free because it must prove that the measures (eg emission standards) are necessary as part of the test and this, of course, opens the door to greater and more in-depth reviews of national measures. Prof Reid thus argued that the non-discrimination paradigm must be reinforced.

Prof Reid then scrutinised the way the WTO dispute settlement mechanism can potentially encroach on how non-economic issues are viewed and addressed in international economic law. Whilst it might be contended that States had agreed to such legally binding mechanism on a voluntary basis they nonetheless did not expect such a curtailment of their freedom to act. This no doubt affects the legitimacy of the mechanism all the more as an increasing number of individuals deem the protection of the environment to be of utmost importance and feel that the WTO is impinging on such an important matter. That being said, Prof Reid stressed that the WTO dispute settlement mechanism has so far, notably due to its restricted mandate, adopted a conciliatory approach. The mechanism, when examining general exceptions to the non-discrimination principle, has adopted a broad interpretation of the terms so as to facilitate the use of these clauses to cover environmental issues. After carefully examining the test enshrined in Article XX GATT that relates to general exceptions, Prof Reid concluded that the mechanism does not question the level of protection offered by such measures, but whether the measure is the least restrictive in terms of trade. This enables the mechanism to keep an objective evaluation of the measure even though it does claim that it is engaging in a ‘weighing and balancing’ exercise. As a result of the mechanism refusing to examine the state’s level of protection (which is in fact consistent with the trade liberalisation paradigm) it avoids the legitimacy question.

In conclusion Prof Reid reiterated that the evolution of the international legal order poses a significant challenge to the WTO. She however maintained that the WTO has the capacity to address such challenges: it must reinforce the non-discrimination paradigm and continue to resist the movement towards a subjective evaluation of State measures

In the discussion that followed, participants asked questions about eg the consistency of the case-law of the dispute settlement mechanism, the interrelationship between WTO rules and regional agreements, how non-government organisations can influence WTO decisions, and the definition and application of the concept of ‘human health’ as found in Article XX GATT.

Rt Hon David Lammy MP launches 2018 Equity Speaker Series at UWE Bristol

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Rt Hon David Lammy MP, author of the Lammy Review launched the 2018 Equity Speaker Series on Wednesday 24 January at the UWE Bristol Exhibition and Conference Centre.

Lammy, who is an popular campaigner and outspoken social and political commentator, spoke on the topic of  ‘The Confidence to Be: What next for the BAME graduate?’

Following the talk, 200 delegates enjoyed networking and a Caribbean inspired canape reception courtesy of Calypso Kitchen restaurant , the brain child of UWE Bristol Alumnus Will Clarke.

A number of pro-diversity organisations were also in attendance as exhibitors to promote opportunities to BAME students.

About UWE Bristol’s Equity Programme

Equity is an innovative positive-action talent and professional development programme for home-BAME students at UWE Bristol.

It was launched in the Bristol Business School and Bristol Law School at the University’s annual Link event in October 2017 which attracted approximately 300 students and professionals.

Its principal objectives are the improvement of graduate outcomes specifically in terms of increasing professional employment and self-employment rates as well as supporting them to aim for careers which offer promising earning potential.

Equity days take place once a month and include race and identity coaching and workshops entirely facilitated by external BAME professionals and entrepreneurs. Each Equity day concludes with a keynote speaker that reflects the best of British BAME talent.

(Equity Curator Dr Zainab Khan and Race Equality Programmes Officer Alex Mormoris are both based within the Bristol Business School, any queries should be addressed to raceequality@uwe.ac.uk you can also follow the programme on Twitter @Bristol_Equity )

Professor Laurent Pech’s Distinguished Professorial Address – UWE, 30 November 2017

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On 30 November 2017 the Bristol Law School welcomed Laurent Pech, Professor of European Law and holder of the Jean Monnet Chair of EU Public Law at Middlesex University London. The title of his Distinguished Professorial Address was ‘Rule of Law Backsliding in the European Union: Lessons from Hungary and Poland’, a topic on which Professor Pech has extensively written.

Professor Pech began his Address by explaining that it was a rather depressing topic to address and that he had unfortunately no good news to share. In his opinion the situation in Hungary and Poland represents a clear and present threat to the very functioning of the EU legal order even more than the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union. Using data from the NGO Freedom House Prof Pech pointed at the declining situation of the rule of law in Hungary and more recently Poland which had adopted a series of measures leading to an even faster process of rule of law backsliding in this country. Prof Pech took this opportunity to stress that rule of law problems were not only visible in Hungary and Poland but in a number of EU Member States. However given the systemic, repeated and deliberate nature of the attacks on the rule of law in these two countries the focus of his lecture was going to be on these two States.

As Prof Pech explained, the rule of law situation in a specific State is only scrutinised during the enlargement process but no general and permanent system was initially designed to look at backsliding whilst being a Member State of the European Union. That being said, he clarified that, unbeknownst to many, Romania and Bulgaria have been subject to a specific rule of law monitoring system following their accession. The fact that the rule of law situation is getting worse in Romania in spite of the monitoring system tends to show that the system is not as robust as it should be. Yet, as Prof Pech noted, the situation in Romania has not reached the levels seen in Hungary and Poland.

By ‘backsliding’ Prof Pech means that a State is on a downward spiral, from a healthy to an unhealthy system of the rule of law. Whilst this started in 2010 in Hungary, the ‘disease’, as Prof Pech called it, is spreading to other Eastern European States and it seems that it is not going to disappear in the nearest future. Continuing the medical analogy, Prof Pech expressed his concern that the European Union was struggling to find ‘a cure to the disease’ having previously struggled to correctly diagnose the disease beforehand.

The definition of rule of law backsliding proposed by Prof Pech is that it is ‘a process through which (1) elected public authorities deliberately implement governmental blueprints which (2) aim to systematically weaken, annihilate or capture internal checks on power with (3) the view of dismantling the liberal democratic state and entrenching the long-term rule of the dominant party’ (see Pech and Scheppele, ‘Illiberalism Within: Rule of Law Backsliding in the EU’ (2017) 19 Cambridge Yearbook of European Legal Studies 3). In other words, rule of law backsliding implies a deliberate governmental plan to systematically annihilate the rule of law and which tends to start with attacks on the independence of the judiciary. It is this specific intent to dismantle systematically all checks and balances with the view of establishing a de facto one-party state that distinguishes the situation in Poland and Hungary from that in other EU Member States such as Italy where structural rule of law deficiencies may be identified. Remarkably, the argument of the ‘will of the people’ is now more and more used by governments to justify new limits if not new attacks on the rule of law. In the long term, the goal is to reshape the rules so that even if elections are held they will lead to the current government to be reconducted in its mandate as usual checks and balances measures have disappeared and elections may be free but are no longer fair.

Prof Pech then explained that in the aforementioned journal article he and his colleague Prof Scheppele provide a matrix of ‘constitutional capture’ in seven steps to help understand what has happened in Hungary but also in a number of non EU countries. In short, it is a recipe to destroy the rule of law in a methodological manner. According to Prof Pech Poland has now reached stage 4 whilst Hungary is in stage 7.

Whilst it might be too late to rescue Hungary the question is whether the European Union will be able to prevent Poland from sliding further. Unfortunately ‘worst practices’ travel fast too and the domino effect might hit us earlier and quicker than anticipated. In 2010 Hungary showed the first signs of backsliding by requiring all judges above a certain age to retire. The European Commission replied by using its infringement powers but it was too late. Following a CJEU ruling requiring Hungary to offer adequate remedies, most ‘retired’ judges accepted financial compensation and were thus replaced by ideologically compatible judges. Hungary then played the EU to its own game and adopted a law strengthening the position of these judges, arguing that it was doing so to uphold the rule of law. So, as Prof Pech stated, although the Commission had won the ‘battle’ before the CJEU it had lost the rule of law ‘war’.

The Commission drew its own conclusions: it needed a new instrument to tackle the problem. In 2014 the Rule of Law Framework was adopted and in 2016 it was used in relation to the situation in Poland. The problem with the Rule of Law Framework according to Prof Pech is that it relies on a discursive approach. In his view, however, a dialogue with autocrats does not work; it tends in fact to be nothing more than a monologue. Moreover, to foster an environment conducive to a dialogue the Commission has until recently refrained from initiating multiple infringement procedures while also failing to react to the Polish government’s provocations and its complete disregard for its multiple rule of law recommendations.

Whilst the Commission can be seen to be at least trying to address the issue, the Council of Ministers has so far been reluctant to publicly denounce the situation in Hungary and Poland. To some extent its actions (or lack thereof) can be regarded has having undermined the work of the Commission. What is more, some EU Member States have for example sided with Poland, thus making it difficult to exert pressure on Poland. In contrast, the European Parliament has been quite active by adopting a series of resolutions denouncing the situation in Hungary and Poland but as such resolutions are not legally binding and have had little immediate effect.

Recently, the European Parliament has asked for the procedures mentioned in Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union to be triggered with regard to Hungary and Poland. Professor Pech emphasised that this procedure is wrongly labelled as ‘nuclear option’, for a nuclear option can only be used when it is too late, in which case this begs the question: ‘why use it at all?’. Article 7 TEU contains two mechanisms to ensure that the rule of law and fundamental rights are complied with: a preventive one (paragraph 1) and a sanctioning (paragraphs 2-3) mechanism. On the day of his presentation Professor Pech mentioned that the European Commission was currently considering the possibility to recommend the initiation of the preventive mechanism (which was in fact activated on 20 December 2017). Professor Pech explained that the problem with the sanctioning mechanism is that it can only be triggered by unanimity (minus the State that is being ‘investigated’) but given that there are several States that are failing to comply with the rule of law requirements other non-compliant States could be expected to veto any possibility to eventually adopt sanctions against the state subject to Article 7(2).

Professor Pech then argued rather contentiously that Article 7 TEU might not be the ‘real’ nuclear option. Worse repercussions than the suspension of eg voting rights would come from the CJEU declining to consider Polish courts as courts within the meaning of EU law on the basis that such courts are no longer independent. The possible ramifications of such a decision could be potentially considerable.

What can be done? According to Prof Pech it is time to use every single tool available! Everything the European Union can do to tackle the problem, it should do it and it should do it now! In his opinion, the situation in Hungary and Poland is more worrying than Brexit.

At this stage Prof Pech drew some parallels between the rule of law situations in the UK on the one hand and in Poland and Hungary on the other. Indeed he argued that the first signs of an unhealthy rhetoric in the UK could be seen too. Sadly it seems that judges and academics are increasingly subject to abuse and intimidation tactics. The attack on the judiciary in the wake of the Miller case and the ‘enemies of the people’ headline in the Daily Mail is a hallmark of autocratic regimes as a healthy judicial system enables individuals to use legal avenues to vindicate their rights. Similarly attacks on ‘pro-remain’ universities is another way to ensure that a counter, in the case of the UK anti-Brexit, discourse is muted. No voices are thus left to proffer arguments against governmental policies which some may be tempted to justify in the name of ‘the will of the people’ regardless of whether they violate the rule of law or not. A third parallel is the attack against George Soros and his foundation, both in Hungary as well as in the UK as Nigel Farage sought to investigate Soros funding. The anti-Semitic overtones of the anti-Soros rhetoric can be viewed as an attempt to garner the support of autocratic and nativist forces. Despite all these shared traits, Prof Pech emphasised that the UK legal and constitutional system should be strong enough to withstand criticism towards the judiciary and that British universities can do that too. There is no need yet to be excessively worried about the situation though some of the rhetoric used by pro-Brexit supporters is similar to the one used by autocratic regimes in the world. In particular, Prof Pech explained that the ‘will of the people’ appeal is often used as a way to justify violations of the rule of law.

Prof Pech finished his Address by stressing that it was important to ‘diagnose the disease’ so as to be able to provide an appropriate remedy and that the number 1 priority of the European Union should be to tackle rule of law backsliding in its own backyard and stop procrastinating about it.

Bristol Law School: Entering the Legal Profession Fair 2017 – Wednesday 29 November

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Are you interested in a career in the legal profession?

If so, this event is for you, as you will be able to:

  • Meet practising lawyers from a range of law firms, barristers chambers and in-house legal teams.
  • Find out more about conversion to law if you have, or a studying for, a non-law degree.
  • Find out about the professional post graduate courses you will need to complete to qualify as a lawyer.
  • Obtain careers advice from UWE Careers and practising lawyers.
  • Come to a Panel Presentation delivered by trainees on ‘Life after UWE as a lawyer in practise’.
  • Obtain one-to-one advice from a practising lawyer on your CV at our CV Clinic (for current UWE Bristol students only).
  • Meet current UWE Bristol law students and look around teaching rooms to find out what it would be like to do your professional law training at UWE Bristol.

We have a regional focus

Our law fair is unique in its regional focus on Bristol and surrounding areas (including Bath, Somerset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and the South West), and in the information and advice you can receive about the diverse range of legal careers available.

Register here.

Programme of events

16:30 – 17:15  “Life after UWE – meet the trainees” in 2X112

A chaired panel presentation about life as a trainee/ pupil barrister/ life in-house given by practising lawyers. Please register below to attend

17:30 – 19:30 Drop in CV Clinic – For UWE students only (LLB, LLM, LPC, GDL or BPTC)

Sign up on the night for a one-to one slot with a solicitor or a barrister to obtain some feedback on your CV. Make sure your CV is up to scratch.

Exhibitors confirmed to date

3PB Barristers

Albion Chambers

Ashfords LLP

Barcan+Kirby

Battens Solicitors Ltd

Bevan Brittan

Bristol Law Society

Burges Salmon

Chambers Student Guide

Cornwall Council

DAC Beachroft

DAS UK Group

Foot Anstey LLP

Goughs Solicitors

Guildhall Chambers

Invictus Chambers

Knights Professional Services Ltd

LPC Law

LexisNexi

Lyons Davidson

Magdalen Chambers

Michelmores LLP

NewLaw Solicitors

Osborne Clarke LLP

Royds Withy King

Sewell Mullings Logie

Simpson Solicitors

St John’s Chambers

“The Representative bodies

for Barristers”

The National Trust

Thrings

TLT LLP

Tozers LLP

Unity Street Chambers

Veale Wasbrough Vizards LLP

Watkins Solicitors

Which? Legal

Womble Bond Dickinson

Amnesty International Expert Meeting on Brass Plate Companies and Illicit Weapons Trafficking

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Following Dr Mary Alice Young’s participation at the Amnesty International Expert Meeting on Brass Plate Companies and Illicit Weapons Trafficking in October, Dr Young’s suggestions have been included in a follow up report which will be presented to the newly re-established Committee on Arms Export Controls, with a view to presenting the work in an oral evidence session.

Dr Young’s recommendations include alternative methods to investigate, prosecute and stop the formation of brass-plate arms dealers who benefit from the UK’s relationship with financial secrecy jurisdictions.

Guest Talk: Adam Reuben – Climate Refugees: The Science, the People, the Jurisprudence and the Future

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In October 2017 Fores, an independent think tank dedicated to furthering entrepreneurship and sustainable development through liberal solutions to meet the challenges and possibilities brought on by globalisation and global warming, published a report entitled ‘Climate Refugees: The Science, the People, the Jurisprudence and the Future’. On 18 October, one of the authors of the report, Adam Reuben, a former LLM in International law student, came to UWE to present the key findings of the report as well as his latest research on the topic of climate refugees in the European context. The talk was organised by the International Law and Human Rights Unit of the Centre for Applied Legal Research.

The study examines the most important aspects of climate migration issues as comprehensively as possible, and strives to identify the significance and magnitude of possible climate migration flows. Adam started by explaining that there are mainly four triggers to climate migration: rapid-onset climate events, slow-onset climate events, global sea-level rise, and competition and conflict over natural resources.

Rapid-onset climate events include for example floods, hurricanes and earthquakes and lead to mostly temporary displacement of the population. Such events have a push and pull factor in the sense that the population is not only pushed out of a place but also pulled inside the zone as in some instances such climate events have in the long-term created favourable conditions for eg agriculture, tourism.

Slow-onset climate events occur over time and include droughts, degradation, loss of biodiversity, and problems with access to food and water. Here, migration can be both temporary and permanent and a plethora of causes of migration can be identified. In this regard two issues need to be addressed: food security and water scarcity. Slow-onset climate events have created volatility in the market and disruption of food systems; yet, the effects on agriculture affects different regions and different types of cultures in varied manner. As Adam pointed out even if the Paris Agreement is complied with the sub-Saharan area will see a loss of 40% in maze crops. With regard to water-related issues, Adam explained that 40% of the world population experiences water shortage for at least a month a year and that 25% of the population lives in countries affected by chronic or recurring shortage of fresh water. Although the right to water has been recognised as a human right and is included in the sustainable development goals as well as in some national constitutions, little progress has been made. Adam stressed that water is not only used for human needs but is also an asset as such.

Global sea-level rise is a further trigger for climate migration. It is estimated that during the 20th century the sea level has risen by 6 cm owing to climate change. Low-lying coastal zones that include 600 million people are the most vulnerable to this phenomenon. Such rise not only affects the life and livelihoods of individuals but also challenges maritime borders, thus creating potential territorial conflicts.

This led him to discuss competition and conflict over natural resources as another trigger for climate migration. For example, water scarcity increases national instability and food scarcity may cause conflicts over land. It is often argued that the conflicts in Darfur and in Syria are examples of climate conflicts but there is no agreed consensus in the literature as to whether climate change can be isolated as the sole cause of conflict. In other words climate change contributes to conflicts and to migration but it is problematic to identify it as the cause.

It is difficult to estimate the number of climate refugees. Estimations range from 150 million to 1 billion though it seems that a consensus has emerged that by 2050 there will be over 200 million climate refugees. Adam highlighted the fact that there are marked regional differences of disaster displacement and this is partially due to the fact that there are rapid- and slow-onset climate events. At this stage Adam emphasised the fact that there is some wrangling about legal terminology here, notably the distinction between environmental and climate change refugees. This is compounded by the fact that reference is made to climate change, natural disaster and man-made disaster. Further, whilst some individuals cross the borders and are thus refugees in the sense of the 1951 Geneva Convention others do not and are thus considered as internally displaced persons. Adam stressed that international law does not recognise the concept of climate refugees which are usually defined as

‘… those people who have been forced to leave their traditional habitat, temporarily or permanently, because of marked environmental disruption (natural and/or triggered by people) that jeopardised their existence and/or seriously affect the quality of their life.’

From an international law perspective climate refugees fall between two categories: those protected as refugees and those protected as economic migrants. In other words there is currently no legal framework to protect such individuals.

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Adam then sought to examine the relevant legal regimes, i.e. international environmental law, refugee law, migration law and human rights law. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Agreements rarely refer to climate migration (see e.g. COP 16, 18 and 21) and the Paris Agreement makes a vague reference to such migration. But is the UNFCCC the relevant forum to address the issue of climate migration? The UN High Commissioner for Refugees rejects the expansion of its mandate to consider climate migration. That being said it operates on the basis of ‘climate change hotspots’ to somehow fill the gap. So, by not isolating climate change as the sole cause of displacement, UNHCR is able to protect such individuals. Interestingly, Adam pointed out that the International Migration Office was at the forefront of the work on the protection of climate refugees having produced excellent studies on the subject-matter. Also the Nansen Initiative produced in 2015 an Agenda for the Protection of Cross-Border Displaced Persons in the Context of Disasters and Climate Change. From a human rights perspective there appears to be some form of protection offered to climate refugees but mainly only because they fall within other categories such as refugees and displaced persons. Most importantly the principle of non-refoulement, the cornerstone of the 1951 Geneva Convention, has been read into human rights instruments via the prohibition of torture and inhuman treatment. At this juncture Adam explained how the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights could be used to protect climate refugees, arguing that as the Convention is a ‘living instrument which […] must be interpreted in light of present day-conditions’ it could potentially provide an adequate legal framework for protection.

Last but not least Adam considered the issue of climate refugees in the European Union. He contended that climate refugees are not legally recognised by the EU and that it is not possible to interpret existing legislation so that it incorporates climate refugees. Various studies and papers refer to climate refugees but no clear strategy can be discerned as of now. Rather, an incoherent and piecemeal approach seems to be the preferred approach of the EU.

The discussion that ensued covered a wide range of themes. First, the issue of terminology was raised and especially why and whether terminology was of such importance. The concept of forced environmental migrant seemed to be accepted by the audience as probably most suitable to describe a variety of persons affected by climate change events. Second, the interaction of the various legal regimes and where the protection of climate refugees would sit best was discussed at length, especially in light of the doctrine of State responsibility that requires harm to be linked to a State or a State actor. Third and last the discussion veered towards the European Union’s approach towards climate refugees. It was notably pointed out that given that Member States had territories overseas that were liable to climate events the topic of climate refugees could become quickly an issue of concern for the EU.

 

Bristol Law School success at the Bristol Law Society Awards

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Bristol Law School had great successes at the annual Bristol Law Society Awards with a UWE student winning Student of the Year and the LiP Service team winning Team of the Year.

Brooke Lewis (LLB) won Student of the Year from a shortlist made entirely of UWE Bristol students. This is the first time the shortlist was made up of all UWE Bristol students. This is a spectacular achievement and speaks volumes for the standard of our students.

The LiP Service team which is part of the Pro-bono unit at the Bristol Law School won Team of the Year the awards.

The LiP Service team was founded after Lawyers from Bristol University, University of Law and UWE Bristol realised they were replicating work by all chasing the same aim. The LiP Service tries to explain the loss of Legal Aid and general access to justice; which has led to many people not understanding the legal justice process and reluctant to access it alone. The service assists litigants in person with orientation around the Bristol Civil Justice Centre and with information about how to conduct their cases.

The District Judge, Stephanie Cope, who supports the project is a UWE alumnus and involves the local Judiciary and Ministry of Justice staff in supporting the project.

The collaboration between Bristol Law School staff and students, and those from Bristol University and the University of Law is a shining example of a collaborative network between educational institutions, voluntary organisations and the Law Centres in Bristol.

Additionally, the Lawyer of Year award went to Bristol Law School alumnus Samantha Castle who studied her LPC at UWE Bristol in 2004.

Congratulations to all who won and were nominated at the awards!

 

 

 

 

 

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