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Exclusive: Cambridge law students asked to consider what Theresa May’s Brexit deal might look like in ‘nightmare’ EU exam

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Could you answer it?

Final year law students at the University of Cambridge were asked to write down what the United Kingdom’s relationship with the EU might look like post-Brexit in what’s been described as “an absolute nightmare” of an exam.

The three-hour EU law exam — which took place on Thursday at 1.30pm — asked students to choose four questions to answer out of ten. As a spokesperson for the elite university reiterated: “no single question was compulsory in this exam.”

An extract from the EU law exam paper sat by some Cambridge students last week.

Question 2 (pictured above) in particular seems to have caused the most confusion, according to a number of students who sat the exam and subsequently contacted Legal Cheek. The question was split into two parts, 2a and 2b, with the latter asking students to analyse a comment from Oxford professor — and Legal Cheek interviewee — Paul Craig. Question 2a read:

‘We will pursue a bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement with the European Union. This agreement should allow for the freest possible trade in goods and services between Britain and the EU’s member states. It should give British companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate within European markets — and let European businesses do the same in Britain. But I want to be clear. What I am proposing cannot mean membership of the Single Market.’ (THERESA MAY, 2017).

Consider what form this new relationship between the UK and the EU might take.

Tough one — in the words of one student, this question “went beyond the bounds of what must be considered reasonable.” He continued:

We, on a number of occasions, had been told [this topic] was not examinable and was only being included in introductory lectures and supervisions as ‘background’ and ‘out of interest’.

A University of Cambridge spokesperson responded:

The single market and problems of free trade have been covered as a sample question and topics for reading during the course, as has the European Free Trade Association and the European Economic Area. Students were all aware that the issue was on the syllabus; the syllabus was published at the start of the academic year and expressly refers to ‘the legal and political issues surrounding Brexit and its potential consequences’.

The spokesperson continued:

This was a mainstream question. There was no ‘right answer’, it was an exercise in critical thinking under exam conditions.

So, could you answer it?

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57 Comments

Anonymous

Such a bad question to give in an EU paper. Full of speculation and hypotheticals and hardly anything tangible involved which they learnt in class.

(38)(10)

Anonymous

Not really. Brexit means Brexit. No deal is better than a bad deal. Clear now?

(40)(3)

Anonymous

A very strong and stable response

(19)(0)

Anonymous

questions such as those are marked on ability to think about the issue as opposed to an actual answer.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Entirely reasonable

(30)(4)

Anonymous

Brexit is happening, and there will be no going back.

This is just denial from academics set to lose their jobs.

(11)(18)

Anonymous

Wingnut.

(6)(0)

Anonymous

Wingman

(2)(2)

Anonymous

Binman

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Binbag

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Batman

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Bagman

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Woman

Jones day partner

Woman 😛

Anonymous

Womb-man

Anonymous

Wound-man

Not Amused

Neither questions 2 or 3 appear to have anything to do with law.

It will be no bad thing when this course is cut. The university education of young people is a serious matter for them and the nation. It is not a self indulgent playground for overly political academics.

(41)(13)

Just Anonymous

3 doesn’t look too bad. That just requires waffle on the current constitutional set-up of the EU, and whether said constitution would be improved by a more powerful central authority.

2(b) is purely political, and I don’t understand what it’s doing on a law paper.

2(a) requires waffle on freedom of movement principles: specifically, how they operate now, given our membership of the single market, and how, as a matter of legal fact, our leaving the single market could change the current situation.

(13)(2)

Anonymous

I think we all realise you aren’t a very good lawyer NA, otherwise you wouldn’t spend all day on LC writing furious comments. But this can absolutely be answered from a legal perspective. What possible legal relationships can be formed with the EU outside of the single market? What are key pillars of ‘free trade’ within the European legal framework that may be compromised on? What components are integral to EU membership and can’t be extended without it? Why not?

There’s all sorts of meaty stuff in there. I mean, for christ’s sake as a City sol I make money advising on the law as it is likely to affect trade and finance. I realise that Brexiteers are somehow still all desperately butthurt about everytjing EU related despite the referendum result but you might want to pays and rub a few brain cells together before writing the next few posts.

(10)(1)

Anonymous

Feels more like an IR/politics/EU studies question rather than a law question imo. I mean, they could have studied some previous FTAs and so the question could essentially be tackled as inquiry on comparative international trade law – but again, barely appropriate for an EU law exam.

(9)(2)

Anonymous

It smacks of intellectual narcissism on the part of the academics, if you ask me. Sure, Cambridge finals are no picnic, but at least give students the chance to show what they have actually learnt and thought about all year, rather than whether they have taken a key interest in the EU’s bilateral trade agreements with third countries etc/have spent all year reading Foreign Policy, etc. Obviously EU Law isn’t an optional course in final year; these kind of questions would maybe be more appropriate if the opposite were true.

(0)(1)

Anonymous

At UCLan – students were given the following questions
1.Discuss Leave claims that the EU is becoming a super state.
2. Discuss Leave Claims that the EU is undemocratic.
3. Discuss Leave claims that the EU Court of justice removes national sovereignty.

All students are receiving Brexit questions that academics only want anti-brexit answers to.

(6)(1)

Anonymous

Leave claims are all lies so obviously any law professor wants to see them debunked. You may as well get all triggered about climatology professors failing students who argue that climate change isn’t happening, or archeology professors failing students who argue the world is 6,000 years old and dinosaurs didn’t exist.

Universities are places of learning and factual analysis. Since all of the Leave claims are total fabrications invented to persuade gullible idiots, it would be despicable to do anything other than present the facts that destroy them.

(3)(2)

Anonymous

Scientific evidence of anthropogenic climate change is irrefutable. The same cannot be said about claims that the EU is perhaps a little undemocratic. Hard-line Remainers need to remember that hard-line Brexiters, no matter how disingenuous in some of their claims, are not the only Europeans complaining about the opacity of EU structures and decision-making processes.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Simply because you state something as being irrefutable does not necessarily make it so; It requires substantiation, and in that regard, your post is suffering from a paucity of substance.

(0)(0)

Ivory Towers

UClan……

(2)(1)

Lord Harley of Everywhere (all letters of the alphabet, 4th grade, highest)

Silly Billies , actually sitting exams.

(17)(0)

MK

There were 10 different questions? That’s way more than exams at my Uni (Leeds) which is usually 2 of 4 or 4 of 6. Hard to complain when you have such a wide variety of options.

Question 2, while broad, was hardly unanswerable. A student who keeps up with current events could discuss EEA/EFTA, WTO, Canada models or the UK governments’ own plans.

I actually think it’s a good question – rewards topical research instead of merely repeating textbook material.

(16)(7)

Anonymous

Not really easy, there’s a reason why Cambridge is No. 1 mate.

(4)(0)

Cantab. Double-Fist.

Cambridge breeds future world leaders who may have to make decisions like this in future.

Entirely reasonable.

(10)(12)

Anonymous

Seems reasonable enough though…. it’s going to gage some discussion of the different trade relationships non-EU countries have with the union. We had to do it this year with reasonable dept of what mechanisms for disputes are involved….. and what could and couldn’t be traded freely, etc etc. The best part is that there would be no one correct answer.

(3)(2)

Alan

Just look at that horrible hawk-like glare of May. How dare she threaten our futures with an unwarranted hard Brexit. She is daft and cruel.

(6)(3)

MA (Cantab)

We do not do this LLB of which you speak.

(20)(3)

almosthippy

Of which whom speaks? No one is speaking of the said LLB. You imagined it, I presume to make some point that escapes me. No one cares about your (or my) non-hons MA.

(1)(2)

Anonymous

Why does your Ma not have hons?

(1)(0)

Anonymous

The fake MAs given by Oxford and Cambridge don’t get (hons) after them because they are just a piece of paper. If you do a masters and pass you get (hons) to signify the degree.

(0)(3)

Anonymous

Which institutions actually give out MA (Hons) (for a proper Master’s)? Oxbridge undergrad BAs don’t have (hons) after them either. Only in Scotland should people pay attention to (Hons) after an undergrad degree, because it means they did an additional year on top of the Ordinary. “Hons” in England has zero relevance.

(2)(1)

Anonymous

These questions would make sense in a politics exam, but don’t appear to have anything to do with a substantive point of law

(13)(2)

Anonymous

Has”Jo” Maugham been invited to be an external examiner? Extra marks for those discussing how the Irish AG’s two fingers to Maugham’s efforts to use the Irish courts as a grandstand for his causes represents a sound application of the principle of sincere cooperation under Article 4(3) TEU.

(3)(1)

Anonymous

What exactly is the problem here? This was a non-compulsory question. I was at Cambridge in a different subject, and it is totally normal for exams to lob in a couple of questions that are slightly off-syllabus or more general, to let those who want to demonstrate their ability to pull things together and make a original argument on the fly. I would understand the upset if this question were compulsory, but it isn’t.

(11)(9)

Anonymous

It is irrelevant that no question is compulsory. When you include bad questions or non-law questions or those legitimately not expected to be covered at all (like Brexit, which we thought was contextual and fell into irrelevance with the announcement of Hard Brexit), then you mess up the whole paper because the range of options is so poor. And that wasn’t even the worst question! Can we talk about Question 1?!

(19)(3)

Anonymous

No, man up, snowflake!

(0)(1)

took the paper

don’t be daft. i took the paper:
1) the supervision sheets clearly hinted at which supervision were more ‘political’ than other—supervisions 1 and 9.
2) EU law is explicitly political—live with it.
3) if you wanted to avoid the politics, there were 8 other questions which more doctrinal. there is an option.

(10)(13)

Anonymous

That’s nonsense. EU law is a legal course and only tangentially political. I’m afraid “hints” are unacceptable. Based on how speculative the subject matter on Brexit is on something which has yet to occur, some of us actually asked about the Supervision 1 material and were told it’s just background. Thus, the expectation is, of course, that it would feature but not as a stand-alone question. A choice of 8 EU law questions is not good enough when we are entitled to 10.

(16)(7)

Took the paper as well

@tookthepaper What a moron you are. Plenty of first class Part I students who’ve been getting firsts in EU all year found this a ridiculous paper, including myself. Supervision 9 citizenship wasn’t even on the paper so why not make Brexit a proper lecture focus rather than wasting time on citizenship. Supervisors told students future relationship was unexaminable including mine. “This is a course in EU law not Brexit” was the frequent mantra. The future relationship was lectured for all but 20 minutes and is simply not law.

The faculty ought to grow up

(14)(5)

Andrea G

Well I personally think this was a great question and would have relished the opportunity to answer it. There isn’t a right or wrong answer, so relevant material and analysis constructed with solid arguement and reasoning would have scored very nicely. It never ceases to amaze me that the supposed ‘Highest academic achievers’ are selected for entry into these top universities only to find posts like this… where the aforementioned students are moaning like children over an optional question, which is current, contoversial and totally relevant with such vast scope to have displayed your ‘high achieving potential’. Or simply shut up and move on to the next question probably regarding sovereignty and some shit about parliamentary supremacy , which quite frankly can be answered without even revising for. So hardly testing your potential brilliance now is it. .get a grip of yourself and stop sounding so weak and incapable.

(1)(3)

Tookthepaperaswell

If you’re told it’s not coming up you don’t study it, dolt.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Wow, your comment smacks of jealousy.

(0)(1)

Anonymous

They probably have a better idea than she does

(5)(1)

The truth

She cannot even show her face to a live debate. What an absolute coward of a woman. Unelected, unwanted, unnecessary waste of space.

(4)(2)

Anonymous

I tire of these “unelected” arguments. But the rest of your comment is indeed valid.

(0)(1)

Anonymous

Except she is about to win the election with a mandate as large as that of John Major in 1992.

Best get over it mate.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

This is a brilliant paper far better than anything I received on the EU which was all black letter stuff. Question 3 in particular looks particularly fun, could really have got stuck into that one.

(6)(1)

Anonymous

Answer: Strong and stable leadership
Full marks

(11)(1)

Anonymous

I could have answered it (and would have revised it) IF I hadn’t been told it would not be examined.

(9)(2)

Anonymous

Get a grip Cambridge final year students. This is just the sort of thing your clients will want to know. I’m pretty sure ‘they told us it wasn’t in the exam’ won’t be much use to you in the real world. Stick to what Oxbridge graduates are good at, like running the country…oh, wait…

(5)(7)

Anonymous

Our clients wouldn’t be very happy if we, having been incorrectly briefed, gave them wrong legal advice. But if they complain, we can always just tell them to “get a grip” and remind them that life just isn’t fair. Never mind that they are paying customers (as are we students nowadays with the right to expect better “service”).

(5)(3)

Comments are closed.