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Unity in Adversity

EU Citizenship, Social Justice and the Cautionary Tale of the UK

By: Charlotte O'Brien
Media of Unity in Adversity
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Published: 19-03-2020
Format: Paperback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 304
ISBN: 9781509936953
Imprint: Hart Publishing
Series: Modern Studies in European Law
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
RRP: £30.00
Online price : £27.00
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About Unity in Adversity

'In this important contribution to the analysis and construction of European Union citizenship, Charlotte O'Brien provides her characteristic blend of rigorous legal scholarship and compelling social vision. She identifies challenging questions about the relationship between justice and vulnerability that should concern the shaping of law at all levels of governance.'
Professor Niamh Nic Shuibhne, University of Edinburgh

'Piercing the veil of well-known proclamations of “equality” and “non-discrimination”, in this intimate portrait of Union law O'Brien sounds a sobering wake up call. The Union, to the genuine surprise of some converted, is a powerful actor of injustice, failing the vulnerable Europeans at many a turn, blinded by its own proclaimed righteousness and goodness to be aware of the plight of those it lets down. The sooner we dispel the oxymoronic myth of a “market citizen” as a necessary tool of the uniquely benevolent EU internal market project, the sooner the process of healing the Union turning its back on the majority of Europeans can begin. This book is an important part of this beginning.'
Professor Dimitry Kochenov, University of Groningen

The EU is at a crossroads of constitution and conscience. Unity in Adversity argues that EU market citizenship is incompatible with a pursuit of social justice, because it contributes to the social exclusion of women and children, promotes a class-based conception of rights, and tolerates in-work poverty. The limitations of EU citizenship are clearest when EU nationals engage with national welfare systems, but this experience has been neglected in EU legal research.

Unity in Adversity draws upon the ground-breaking EU Rights Project, working first hand with EU nationals in the UK, providing advice and advocacy, and giving ethnographic insight into the process of navigating EU and UK welfare law. Its study of EU law in action is a radical new approach, and the case studies illustrate the political, legal and administrative obstacles to justice faced by EU nationals. Taken together, the strands demonstrate that 'equal treatment' for EU nationals is an illusion. The UK's welfare reforms directed at EU nationals are analysed as a programme of declaratory discrimination, and in light of the subsequent referendum, should be treated as a cautionary tale – both to the EU, to take social justice seriously, and to other Member States, to steer away from xenophobic law-making.

Shortlisted for the 2018 BBC Thinking Allowed Award for Ethnography.
Winner of the 2019 Hart-SLSA Book Prize.

Table Of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Welfare, Citizenship and Social Justice in Action
3. The Rise of Market Citizenship and The Illusion of Equal Treatment
4. Discounting Proportionality and Exacerbating Disadvantage
5. Market Citizenship and Ideological Obstacles to Social Justice: The Market as Morality
6. Activation-Plus: Welfare Reforms and Declaratory Discrimination
7. Resisting Competence for Market Citizens: Shortcomings in the Social Security Coordination Framework
8. Market Citizenship and Administrative Barriers to Justice
9. Is European Social Justice Possible?
10. Unity in Adversity: Some Conclusions


“Charlotte O'Brien's Unity in Adversity offers a fresh take on the foundations and practical operation of Union citizenship, delivering a significant, genuinely new contribution to the conversation.” –  Stephanie Reynolds, School of Law and Social Justice, University of Liverpool, Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law

“O'Brien's approach to her subject of study is groundbreaking. Rather than merely commenting on implementation in the abstract, she worked with and alongside EU citizens and those advising them to experience first-hand how EU law works in practice. This has given her real insight into how EU citizens experience EU law, including those who are most marginalised in society.” –  Colin Yeo, Free Movement

“Overall, the book constitutes a very interesting, important and impressive contribution to EU legal scholarship on the extremely important, politically sensitive and academically challenging topic of EU citizenship law and issues of social welfare. Among its virtues may also be added that the author expresses a very good understanding and knowledge of the issues at stake, that the book is very well-written and well-researched, and that the author has many interesting ambitions in her approach to the topic.” –  Ulla Neergaard, Common Market Law Review

“The book offers powerful vignettes highlighting how difficult it is in practice for individuals-with their varied histories and lives-to be shoe-horned into legal categories that are sensitive only to issues of the market, and not to those of justice... O'Brien's is a powerful critique of EU citizenship and its national application.” –  Jo Shaw, University of Edinburgh, European Law Review

“[A] very remarkable, inspiring and wonderfully readable book!” –  Stamatia Devetzi, Fulda University of Applied Sciences, European Journal of Social Security

“This book is a must-read for all engaged in politics, social rights, and EU law and policy. It is an eye-opener to the reality of neo-liberal developments.” –  Naomi Creutzfeldt, Westminster Law School, University of Westminster, Journal of Law and Society

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