View from Brussels / Whitehall

Welcome to a blog by Edward Simpson, FLA  Director of  Government Affairs & Stakeholder Engagement, which considers developments from across The Channel and closer to home on an alternate monthly basis. 

21 April 2021

Lobbying is a critical part of the policy-making process. It is the basis on which industry, NGOs and those with ‘skin in the game’ put forward evidence-based cases to decision-makers on the impact of introducing (or scaling back) legislation. Without such intervention, politicians and civil servants do not have the resources nor time to reach a considered position.

In recent weeks, the transparency of lobbying has hit the headlines. This happens periodically in the UK and is usually a result of what is deemed to be unacceptably close links between a former or current senior politician being paid by ‘big business’ or an ‘unsavoury’ international regime. At the nub of this criticism is individuals cashing in on their connections. The same arguments are made for senior civil servants working in the private sector either during or after their Whitehall career.

The whiff of scandal overlooks the significant contributions made by the likes of trade bodies such as the FLA to public policy development and the honest manner in which we conduct ourselves. To date, the statutory UK register only applies to ‘consultant lobbyists’ (i.e. public affairs consultants) which represent around a fifth of all those involved in influencing Westminster, Whitehall, the devolved assemblies and the regions.

As an organisation, we’d embrace signing up to a register and would be content for a record of meetings with senior regulators, ministers and parliamentarians to be made publicly available as is already commonplace with HM Treasury and BEIS Ministers. The FLA has for the past decade appeared on the EU Transparency Register which highlights the signatory’s financial outlay (defined widely to include salaries and travel) on EU activity and is a prerequisite to meeting senior European Commission officials (which they must record). The vast majority of public affairs professionals feel the same way.

Whilst such a measure would enhance the openness of how we lobbyists conduct business it would not address questions about the integrity of politicians and civil servants taking advantage of their positions of power. Perhaps the time has come to think about a register for former politicians and senior civil servants earning income derived from interaction with government.    


View from Brussels - March 2021

26 Mar 2021
As the deadline approaches for the conclusion of equivalence arrangements between the UK and Brussels, the sense is that closure will not be reached before this month is out.
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View from Brussels - February 2021

25 Feb 2021
14 months into Boris Johnson’s first full term in government, what can FLA members hope for in the remaining three-and-a-bit years?
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View from Brussels - January 2021

25 Jan 2021
So finally as festive preparations were in full swing, news came through of a deal between the UK and the EU.
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View from Brussels - December 2020

17 Dec 2020
I had hoped to be writing about the dénouement of the Brexit negotiations as we bid good riddance to 2020 but whatever I write today may well be out of date by time you read this. Instead, I’ll focus on the some of the year’s highlights at a European level.
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View from Brussels - November 2020

27 Nov 2020
The European Commission is keen to show that it is on the side of the European consumer. Earlier this month, it published a vision for the next five years in the form of a New Consumer Agenda which seeks to address the old challenges along with the new.
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View from Brussels - October 2020

22 Oct 2020
In my earlier blogs, I expressed pessimism over the chances of an agreement between Boris Johnson’s Government and the EU on a future relationship. It didn’t bode well as the Prime Minister’s 15 October cut-off for a deal came and went as so many other deadlines have done in the Brexit saga.
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View from Brussels - September 2020

25 Sep 2020
Brussels is trying to forge an identity as a global leader on a number of important themes.
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View from Brussels - August 2020

27 Aug 2020
In May I wrote that “the smart money would be on a ‘no deal’ Brexit at the end of the year.” In the current circumstances, I see no reason to revise my forecast.
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View from Brussels - July 2020

24 Jul 2020
Earlier this week EU leaders agreed a budget for 2021-2027, the first time the Multi-annual Financial Framework has excluded the UK.
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View from Brussels - June 2020

24 Jun 2020
As governments and regulators across Europe consider how they use recovery from the Covid-19 as a force for progress, one of the central components will be the drive towards a greener economy.
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View from Brussels - May 2020

28 May 2020
The deadline for the UK and Brussels to reach agreement on a future relationship is fast approaching.
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View from Brussels - April 2020

30 Apr 2020
Just as countries around the globe have introduced measures to mitigate the impact of Covid-19, on 28 April the European Commission announced a banking package to facilitate lending to households and businesses in the EU.
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View from Brussels - March 2020

31 Mar 2020
Just as the UK Government has put in place measures to mitigate the fallout of the coronavirus on businesses and households so this has been the case on the other side of the English Channel.
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View from Brussels - February 2020

26 Feb 2020
Earlier this month, colleagues and I visited Brussels to better understand the lie of the land post-Brexit.
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View from Brussels - January 2020

28 Jan 2020
As we enter the last few days before the UK leaves the EU, talk has turned to what the future relationship holds.
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Inaugural version of a ‘View from Brussels’.

17 Dec 2019
Welcome to the inaugural version of a ‘View from Brussels’.
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