Catherine Barnard

Published 9th October 2018
Catherine Barnard, Professor of European Union Law and Employment Law at Trinity College Cambridge.

Catherine Barnard is Professor of European Union Law and Employment Law and Senior Tutor of Trinity College. She is a leading researcher working on the issues surrounding the Brexit negotiations. She is also a Senior Fellow in the Economic and Social Research Council’s UK in a Changing Europe project and undertaking a project entitled “Honeypot Britain?” looking at whether migrants are travelling to Britain to gain access to benefits. Before the referendum, Catherine spent her time giving presentations about the EU in town halls across the country.

Catherine was born in Kent and moved to Belfast when she was young. Her father was an English Civil servant working in Belfast. She lived through the troubles. This experience is the reason why this issue is particularly meaningful to her in the Brexit negotiations and has impacted the focus of her research to date.

She read Law at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. She then studied an LLM at the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence. Catherine wrote her dissertation on the European litigation strategy of the then Equal Opportunities Commission (now EHRC) and how EU law could be used to deliver greater equality to women. While at the EUI, Catherine set up a Viennese waltz society. She also enhanced her knowledge about Renaissance art as the Italian method of learning encourages a rounded education. After completing her education, she had offers to either join the bar or to become an academic. She took up a post at Southampton university. She subsequently moved to Cambridge, was awarded a PhD and has taught there ever since.

Catherine is currently working on Brexit projects. The nuances of Brexit have required close research of EU law and thus provided a ‘huge learning curve’ to better understand it. It is necessary to know the details of WTO law, UK constitutional law and knowledge of specific sectors particularly affected by Brexit such as distribution and air transport.

Catherine participated in a project to celebrate the 40 year anniversary of women being admitted into Trinity. Postgraduate students were admitted in 1976, Fellows in 1977 and undergraduates in 1978. There is limited visual representation of women in Trinity. One of the elements in the project was putting up portraits of some of the female Fellows. This project stimulated intense discussions about what is it like to be a woman in academia today.

Catherine notes that there has been an improvement in the number of women entering the legal sector; there are now more female students than male students going into law. However, there is still a pyramid structure. Catherine is concerned that there is still a worrying dropout rate of women from the legal profession in their late twenties, early thirties. It becomes trickier to juggle the needs of children with a demanding career, and childcare is expensive. Young mothers want to spend time with their children.

Catherine recognises the advantages women have in the legal field. Lawyers will practise in different areas during their career. Flexibility is required. Women are particularly good at listening, hard work, determination and juggling many things at once, and these characteristics are crucial to being a successful lawyer.

Although Catherine admits she doesn’t have that much spare time, she is interested in Spanish art and tries to visit Madrid as much as possible. She spends her free time watching her children play amateur football. Catherine finds watching her children throw themselves into football games rewarding. She has a long-suffering partner and three children and Catherine says her children give intense pleasure and the happiest times of her life are spent being with them.

Written by Anastasia Kell, LLB Student at Durham University