EU academic uses abuse he’s been sent by Brexit campaigners in new book intro

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By Katie King on

Michael Dougan called an ‘IRA c*nt’ and told to ‘die painfully of cancer’

University of Liverpool academic Michael Dougan has introduced his latest publication with a run-down of some of the charming messages he’s received since we voted to leave the European Union.

The Cambridge-educated prof became a pro-Remain hit in the run-up to the referendum after a 30-minute talk he gave at Liverpool Law School went viral.

But with this viral stardom came abuse. Legal Cheek revealed last year that Dougan had even attempted to ward off this hate with an astonishing out-of-office email response (pictured below).


Leave’s success in the referendum doesn’t seem to have quelled the abuse: a collection of recently published essays edited by Dougan makes this clear. In the EU constitutional law expert’s introduction to ‘The UK after Brexit, Legal and Policy Challenges’, he says:

During the period from around June 2016 to March 2017, I received in excess of 20,000 personal messages (mostly by email but also sizeable numbers by more traditional post) from the general public… Although those messages and comments included a great many expressions of gratitude or support, and myriad genuine questions and queries that their senders hoped I could help to answer, they also included vast amounts of abuse.

The messages, he continues, included: “I hope you watch your children die painfully of cancer before you die painfully of cancer yourself”; “fuck off back to paddyland you IRA cunt”; and “watch out: we are about to go public with material about you that will ruin your life then maybe you’ll learn to shut your fucking mouth.”

This personal abuse, though horrendous, isn’t in Dougan’s mind as sinister as the claims made against academic researchers’ professional ethics and independence.

For example, Dougan seems to have grown used to claims that any EU expert is going to be automatically biased towards the Remain side because otherwise they’d be putting themselves out of a job. On this, he says:

[It is] as if only someone living in America can work on American politics; or as if only an academic based in France is allowed to research French history; or as if the UK will no longer have any need in the future to know and understand the law and policy of the EU. Rest assured: we most certainly will. Indeed, the irony is: Brexit is any UK-EU legal researcher’s lifetime gift.

In and among the Leave-driven claims are those that academics are personally corrupt. One particular proponent of this is Richard North, Dougan says. The Leave campaigner wrote an article in which he described Dougan as “a paid agent of the EU”, because the University of Liverpool receives European funds. (The EU grant in question, the Jean Monnet Chair, accounted for significantly less than 0.0001% of the institution’s turnover since 2006, Dougan explains.)

Dougan — though more than happy to describe the Leave alliance of 2016 as “the most dishonest political campaign in modern British history” — does not appear vengeful. He describes North’s claims as “a no doubt partly successful attempt to undermine my own professional integrity and reputation,” before noting:

Several generous citizens have offered to fund a legal action on my behalf seeking substantial damages in defamation against North. I suggested they give the money instead to charity.

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