Belfast Telegraph

Nelson McCausland: Queen's University should tell us if it approves of a report critical of Brexit which bears its crest

Queen's has a duty to be transparent about whether it shares views of academic, argues Nelson McCausland

The border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic is being used by Eurocrats in Brussels, as well as politicians in Dublin and some politicians in London and Belfast, in a rearguard attempt to derail Brexit.

Almost every day there is another speech or report on the border issue, and on Tuesday a small, globalist cabal known as The Elders issued a warning that a hard-border Brexit could pose a threat to the Good Friday Agreement.

Two of the best-known Elders are former US President Jimmy Carter, now aged 93, and Mary Robinson, who was president of the Irish Republic more than 20 years ago.

Some of the other members of this elitist cabal I have never heard of.

On the same day as the warning, a policy paper on Brexit, Scotland and Northern Ireland was published by the Scottish Centre on European Relations (SCER) in Edinburgh.

It was reported widely in the media, and the pro-EU twitterati went into overdrive.

So, what is the SCER? It is not some national institution. It is simply a small, private limited company, incorporated in March 2017 with three directors.

One of them is Dr Kirsty Hughes, who also an associate fellow of the Brussels-based Friends of Europe. She has also worked for a number of European think-tanks and was a senior political adviser in the European Commission.

Kirsty Hughes is clearly pro-EU. After the Brexit referendum, she wrote: "The UK has stepped back from Europe, stepped back from the world and, in the process, done deep damage to itself, the EU and the wider world."

I would certainly disagree with that. The Brexit vote was a vote to break free from the bureaucratic shackles of the EU project in order to be able to trade more freely with the wider world. It was a stepping out rather than a stepping back.

The other two company directors are David Gow, who was the EU correspondent for the Scotsman in the 1970s, and Tobias Simon Lock, who teaches EU law and is a co-director of the Europa Institute.

In truth, the SCER seems to be simply a platform for a small coterie of europhiliacs.

The SCER report on Brexit was co-authored by Kirsty Hughes, with Northern Ireland input from Dr Katy Hayward, a reader in sociology at Queen's University Belfast.

Her doctorate was on the impact of European integration on the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, and she has a keen interest in the subject.

She also has a rather jaundiced view of the DUP, as she revealed earlier this year when writing "in a personal capacity" for the Guardian.

Their report claims that Brexit has caused "substantial damage" to devolution and that the UK Government is largely ignoring Northern Ireland.

Both claims were rejected by Sammy Wilson MP, who said the damage was being done by those who "harp on about the vote".

He also said that London had "paid far too much attention" to the border issue.

There seems to be a constant flood of statements and reports on Brexit and the border and, of course, this feeds into the political discourse emanating from Brussels, Dublin, Sinn Fein and the SDLP.

It is in each of their interests to talk up the issue, with Brussels fearing the start of some EU disintegration, Dublin parties looking towards a general election in the Republic, Sinn Fein seeking to destabilise Northern Ireland and the SDLP trying to keep up with Sinn Fein.

However, the SCER report also has the name and logo of Queen's University Belfast, presumably since the other co-author is a reader in sociology at the university.

But does that entitle the publisher to include the QUB logo on the cover, as if the university is endorsing the report? We might ask Queen's, has the university considered or endorsed this report?

With so much scrutiny of the pro-Brexit and anti-Brexit campaigns, I think we need some clarity about the use of the names and logos of universities.

Belfast Telegraph

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