Who: Augustana University Law and Sociology Experts

What: Discussion of Brexit Vote and commentary from a locals perspective

When:  Jan. 15, 2019 and ongoing

How: By phone (professors currently traveling with a group of students in London can discuss Brexit as well as provide commentary about the local reaction).

Background: On June 23, 2016, Britain voted to leave the European Union (EU). The road to eventual “Brexit” has been long and difficult, and the long-term consequences are unclear. In the near-term, however, British politics (and European politics) have been thrown into crisis.

Augustana University Assistant Professor of Business Law, Jason Harris, JD and Associate Professor of Sociology, William Swart, Ph.D. are experts in Brexit and, along with teaching a course on campus, are giving students a real-life history lesson as it happens. The professors departed with several students enrolled in their course, Brexit: The Great Divorce and Life After the European Union, for London on Jan. 4, just in time to witness the Brexit vote on Jan. 15 and the vote of confidence on Jan. 16.

The overall objective of the course explores the challenges Brexit poses for the United Kingdom along the four broad themes of EU membership: the free movement of goods, services, capital, and people.

In doing so, students will examine the legal and ethical issues that arise as Britain negotiates Brexit, paying specific attention to the national and international business environment, financial services sector, EU residents living in the UK, immigration, and refugee resettlement.

Harris’ interest in Brexit stems from his overall interest in politics. “Growing up, my family was politically active, thus sparking my interest in politics,” he says. “I spent roughly eight years as a lobbyist in Pierre following graduation of law school representing various clients before the legislature.” While practicing law, Harris represented several municipalities in southeastern South Dakota. Harris focuses on not just the substantive issues but also the importance of process; more specifically asking the questions: how does one leave the EU? What must the UK do? How do you unravel 40+ years of integrated law?  

Dr. Swart’s research over the past 25 years explores the broad influences of globalization on local and national identities and identity politics. “I am fascinated by the influence global trends in economic and political relations have on local expressions of identity and economic and political structures,” he says. “Brexit provides a timely case to continue this exploration.” Dr. Swart brings a number of important contributions to this course including, broad knowledge of the history of UK/Irish relations, which are central to the current debate over the "backstop", preventing a hard border between Ireland and Nothern Ireland which is being imposed by the European Parliament and an interest in culture and identity that compliments Harris’ emphasis on law and business. 

While traveling, the students will gain the ability to think critically about Brexit, the European Union and macro-economic issues. Through numerous visits to institutions and presentations by elected officials, business representatives, and non-governmental organizations, students will increase their understanding of the practical operations and impact of Brexit as well as the cultural dynamics of European (dis)integration.