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Spotlight on Professor Piet Eeckhout

7 February 2018

Piet Eeckhout

This week the spotlight is on Professor Piet Eeckhout, Dean of UCL Laws and Academic Director of the European Institute.

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am Professor of EU law, Dean of UCL Laws, and moonlighting a bit as Academic Director of the European Institute (EI). In that role I am trying to contribute to the EI’s activities, particularly around Brexit, an interesting but exhausting social experiment. The EI has a great team which needs very little direction, and is a sheer joy to work with.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I have been here five years, and have loved (about) every minute. Before taking on the EI directorship I was pursuing my academic interests in the Faculty of Laws. There is also a dark past though: I was at King’s College London for 14 years. And for Brexiteers there is an even darker past: I worked at the European Court of Justice for about five years in the 1990s.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

I think I’m most proud of our work immediately after the Brexit referendum. I whispered a question into the ears of two Laws colleagues, Jeff King and Tom Hickman, about Parliament’s role in the Article 50 notification. They then wrote a blogpost which developed the basic argument underpinning the famous Gina Miller litigation. There was quite a bit of “campaigning” involved – invariably in academic fashion – which was successful in the courts. That battle is not over yet, though: to me it’s crucial that Parliament gets more involved in the Brexit negotiations.

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?

I am writing a study for the European Parliament International Trade Committee on the future trade relationship between the UK and the EU.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

Gosh, pretty random choices as there are oceans of incredible works. Mahler’s ninth symphony (Claudio Abbado live in Lucerne); The Hours (or Amadeus or The English Patient); Het Verdriet van België (Belgium’s sorrows – Hugo Claus).

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

Have your cake and eat it?? Sorry, not a good one.

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

Barack and Michelle, Sir Simon Rattle, Guardiola, Toni Morrison, and Karl Marx. Think we might strike up an interesting conversation.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Be a bit more relaxed, and focus a bit more on those around you.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

Perhaps where I grew up as a child – small Flemish village.

What is your favourite place?

Yellowstone and Amandola (Italy).