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 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.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Hegel's Political Philosophy book reviewed in NDPR

I'm thrilled to see this very positive review of my latest book on Hegel's political philosophy -- read it HERE.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Brexit update

My thoughts on the Brexit latest:

Theresa May will be putting on a brave face today before a Liaison Committee of MPs. Her only “success” is that talks have moved onto new areas like trade, but without clarifying areas around the Irish border or divorce bill beyond government “intentions” that some in the EU, like Ireland, are still seeking confirmation about. This effectively opens a battle on multiple fronts where the PM hasn’t been winning the argument and rather conceding point by point to the EU’s demands.

It’s difficult to believe that nearly a year after triggering Article 50, May’s senior Cabinet members have only discussed what they want from Brexit for the first time this week. Any other negotiator would have been clear not only on red lines, but the end goal – but not this British government as it marches swiftly to March 2019 with little more in mind than having its cake but without having to pay the EU membership fee to eat it. If May thinks now has been a difficult time, I predict it will get much, much worse quickly as the next EU leaders’ summit is not until March and this would leave one year to both hammer out a final deal and get the EU to agree – if they will agree – to a deal (originally timetabled to take minimum 8 months). Time really is running out. Don’t rule out a panic in Whitehall this spring.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

160 of 195 countries not too shabby

I rarely post updates on I suppose that I should do so more often. Today, I received a lovely little message for a Tuesday morning -- only 35 more countries to go!

Monday, November 20, 2017

PRESS RELEASE: Chancellor under pressure to make immigration system “self-sustainable” in Brexit budget

For immediate release – Monday, 20 November 2017
-With picture-
*TV and radio broadcast facilities available*

Phillip Hammond is under new pressure to make Britain’s immigration system self-funded from its application fees and use additional surpluses for Brexit preparations. Immigration-related income raises over £2bn each year. The Home Office’s annual report of accounts for 2016-17 showed that at least £106m was spent on a consolidated fund on non-immigration matters.

The Home Office’s annual surplus earned from from border, immigration and citizenship services in 2014-15 was over £468m. This was large enough to cover an overall deficit of £266m leaving an overall surplus of more than £200m.

Immigration expert Professor Thom Brooks, Dean of Durham Law School, has called on Hammond to make a new pledge in Wednesday’s budget: “Border security and immigration are top concerns for the public. Brexit will impose new costs on the immigration system whatever the final deal as changes are made with Britain leaving the European Union. All revenue earned by the immigration system should be kept for the immigration system making it self-sustainable at a critical time.”

Professor Brooks says: “migrants are not a cash cow to be milked funding other government projects when we know there is much work to be done preparing for Brexit and new border security infrastructure, but also improving integration through new additional provision for English language support.”

Brooks is concerned that if no fundamental change is made in the budget then the government will be forced to look for new funding streams that may fall on general taxpayers. “The funding is already there in the system,” says Brooks, “The question is whether there is enough political will to act now before it is too late.”


For interviews, please contact Durham University Marketing and Communications Office on +44 (0)191 334 6075;

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Thom Brooks - statement on EU Withdrawal Bill in Parliament

"It’s increasingly likely that any vote in Parliament will come in the final days – maybe final hours – before the March 2019 exit.

Instead of taking back control, Theresa May’s government is playing its own version of ‘deal or no deal’ giving MPs little choice over what Britain’s deal might be for a generation and little time to see any details to know what they are getting us all into.

The main issue a virtual civil war between different factions in the Tory Party rather than working with public in public interest, as if the public’s intentions for Brexit are clear or obvious from almost one year ago with no reason to work with the public instead of refusing to hear their aims, aspirations for the future and more.

I’ve never seen such breath-taking irresponsibility about a matter of such significance in my lifetime."

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Is eating meat ethical? -- new article by Thom Brooks

Eating meat can be ethical, but only when it does not violate rights. This requires that the ways in which meat is produced and prepared for human consumption satisfies certain standards. While many current practices may fall short of this standard, this does not justify the position that eating meat cannot be ethical under any circumstances and there should be no principled objection to its possibility.

Published today in Volume 16, Issue 47 Autumn 2017 , pp. 9-13 issue of Think published by Cambridge University Press

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Universities minister urged to withdraw letter threatening academic freedom

Last week a letter sent to universities by a junior government whip was greeted by alarm by many academics for threatening academic freedom. The letter from Tory MP Chris Heaton-Harris was addressed to vice-chancellors and only exposed when the head of the University of Worcester made a copy public.

Universities were asked to produce lists of what teaching in European affairs relating to Brexit took place, the names of individual staff members teaching on EU matters and for links to lecture recordings. Heaton-Harris sent the request using House of Commons letterhead and only a few weeks before his colleague universities minister Jo Johnson MP later called for more free speech on campuses.

Heaton-Harris’s letter was variously described as ‘McCarthyite’ and ‘sinister’ and called ‘dog whistle politics at its worst’ by Professor Thom Brooks, the Dean of Durham Law School. Heaton-Harris supported Brexit. It was later rebuked by 10 Downing Street.

Today, Professor Brooks will submit a petition to the universities minister calling on him to write to all vice-chancellors contacted by Heaton-Harris and confirm in writing that none are required to release the information requested. The petition reads: ‘In so doing, he would reaffirm his government’s commitment to academic freedom, debate and the high quality of teaching standards at our country’s higher education institutions’. Over two thousand academics and supporters have signed the petition on

Brooks says, ‘While neither the Prime Minister nor her minister appear to support Heaton-Harris’s request, both have not made clear to universities they can disregard the letter if they wish. We have the highest standards set for teaching quality and these should not be cast aside in pursuit of a political agenda’.


Thursday, October 26, 2017

SIGN & SHARE -- Stand up for Universities teaching freely on Brexit (petition)

I've just launched THIS PETITION:

People being free to share thoughts and ideas on issues within society is one of the beauties of democracy. This week we learned that Conservative MP Chris Heaton-Harris wrote to university vice-chancellors requesting information about teaching on European affairs relating to Brexit, the name of individual staff teaching this subject, all materials used and links to classroom discussions.

As a professor of law and government & Dean of my law school at Durham, I am appalled at to see this, and know it could intimidate academics - making them feel like the government is monitoring them. No vice-chancellor should be forced to act on this request and that's why I'm calling on the universities minister Jo Johnson to make this clear through a statements.

Only a few vice chancellors have gone public. And thanks to them, this has been exposed. The letter has caused some parts of the press to call of information on "anti-Brexit" bias
Heaton-Harris is a junior government whip and it is claimed that he was researching for a book. He should not be using his political position, or the House of Commons letterhead in this way.

A clear statement from the universities minister, Jo Johnson, is required to bring this unfortunate matter to an end.

We, the undersigned, call on Jo Johnson, to contact every university vice-chancellor receiving the letter from Chris Heaton-Harris MP in writing to confirm that no university is required to release the information Heaton-Harris requested.

In so doing, he would reaffirm his government's commitment to academic freedom, debate, and the high quality of teaching standards at our country's higher education institutions. We are global leaders that should be championed not enemies to be silenced.
This petition will be delivered to:
  • Jo Johnson, Universities Minister


Friday, October 20, 2017

CFP: Race and Public Policy

Public Affairs Quarterly will publish a special issue devoted to the topic "Race and Public Policy."

Possible topics include, but are not limited to: affirmative action, racial profiling, the Black Lives Matter movement, hate speech, hate crimes, reparations for slavery and other historical injustices, implicit bias, race and health, race and medicine, race and technology, race and the criminal justice system, race and the environment, race and education, race and sports, race and ethnicity, race and immigration, race and identity, and race and inequality.

Submissions on any philosophical topic concerning race and public policy will be considered.   Submissions should be in Microsoft Word format and should be double-spaced and prepared for blind review. The journal prefers manuscripts of 6,000-9,000 words in length but articles outside these limits may still be considered.  Articles intended for consideration for inclusion in this issue should be submitted by December 31, 2018 via the journal’s online submission process at The deadline is far out (December 2018), so that people who are not currently working on a relevant topic still have time to produce a submission.

Questions about potential submissions should be directed to the Editor, David Boonin, at