The Human Dimension of Brexit: Major legal action research clinic funded at York Law School

Posted on 8 November 2018

The new European Economic Area (EEA) Public Services Research Clinic, led by Professor Charlotte O’Brien and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council will be a nation-wide hub for the analysis of the Brexit transition on EEA nationals’ rights.

With the UK set to leave the European Union at the end of March 2019, questions abound over the post-Brexit transitional phase on EEA nationals resident in the UK. This project looks at questions of law in action: how will any legislative position as to EEA nationals’ rights on paper actually play out in practice? How will hanging uncertainty impact on their rights? Will they face administrative obstacles or discrimination in accessing public services?

The EEA Public Services Research Clinic is the first of its kind – a national legal action research project. Based at York Law School, the clinic will provide specialist, second-tier advice and support to advisers from across the UK, and in documenting the challenges faced by EEA nationals, it will ethnographically capture the human dimension of Brexit.

In combination with the advice-led ethnography, Dr Simon Parker, in the Politics Department at the University of York will coordinate fieldwork including interviews with political stakeholders, and Madeleine Sumption, Director of the Migration Observatory, University of Oxford will lead on statistical analysis as new data is released. This work will reveal some of the effects of this uncertain transitional phase on EEA nationals accessing public services.

“This research builds on the success of Professor O’Brien’s pioneering EU Rights Project. The EEA Public Services Research Clinic will provide much needed specialist second-tier advice in a time of great uncertainty, and will create an invaluable evidence base on the effects of Brexit.”

Professor Caroline Hunter, Head of York Law School.

Due to commence in early 2019, the research clinic will run for three years. Its findings will feed into ongoing Parliamentary and EU consultations, support the work of local, national and European authorities as well as welfare advisors across the country, and help to hold decision-makers accountable.