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Charlotte O'Brien

Professor of Law, University of York

I was awarded an ESRC 'Future Research Leader' grant in 2012, with which I was PI on the EU Rights Project, until 2017 - working with EU migrants, Citizens Advice Services, and other advice agencies around the country, providing an advice and advocacy service while conducting an ethnography on the administrative and legal problems encountered. I have documented the effects of the recent welfare changes targeting EU migrants. This resulted in the monograph Unity in Adversity: EU Citizenship, Social Justice and the Cautionary Tale of the UK (Hart, 2017), which was shortlisted for the BBC Thinking Allowed prize for ethnography.

I have been awarded a large ESRC Governance After Brexit grant to work with organisations providing advice to EU and EEA nationals post-Brexit, and to produce an advice-led ethnography. This project is due to start in 2019. My Co-investigators are Simon Parker, in the Department of Politics at York, and Madeleine Sumption, Director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford.

Having volunteered and worked in Citizens Advice Bureaux for over thirteen years, I have practical as well as academic expertise in UK welfare law, EU law, (particularly EU social law - welfare, free movement, citizenship and equal treatment), human rights law, equality and non-discrimination law (especially disability), the rights of carers, and child poverty.

I'm an 'analytical expert' on the EU Commission's Free Movement and Social Security Coordination network, 'Moves', producing reports and giving litigation advice and suggestions to the Commission. I am also joint cases editor for the Journal of Social Security Law.

My work has been published in key international journals, such as the European Law Review, the Common Market Law Review, the Maastricht Journal of International and Comparative Law, and the Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law.

I've communicated about my research through various media, including the Today Programme on Radio 4, BBC Inside Out, and BBC Breakfast. I have given various public talks, including at the YorkTalks 2016,

My work is inherently interdisciplinary; my first degree was a BA in Social & Political Sciences (Cambridge).


  • –present
    Senior Lecturer in Law, University of York


  • 2010 
    Liverpool, PhD Law