Brexit lobbying work is 'wasted effort' because Government 'isn't listening', says Huntsworth CEO

The boss of Grayling and Citigate owner Huntsworth says that efforts to lobby the UK Government over terms of our departure from the EU are "wasted", because Theresa May's team is "not listening to anyone".

Paul Taafe was speaking as Huntsworth reported a pre-tax profit of £9.2m for the first half of 2017, turning around a pre-tax loss of £8.9m in the same period the year before.

Today's results steer clear of any of the gloomy predictions of Brexit's impact on the UK that have annoyed Conservative politicians in recent weeks. Indeed, they make only one referrence to the process of the UK exiting the EU, saying that "uncertainties remain in the macroeconomic environment, particularly around the UK’s exit from the European Union".

"We’re still very excited about the UK market," Taaffe told PRWeek: "Clients are certainly more uncertain, because companies in the UK don’t know how their trading relationship with the EU will be and clients in the EU don’t know what their relationship will be with the UK."

He said that the group had seen "pretty robust growth in public affairs work", with clients eager for advice on Brexit's implications.

However, he said that organisations would be ill-advised to conduct direct lobbying of the UK Government over the Brexit process. "I actually think most of the lobbying efforts at government level are wasted, because the UK Government is not controlling the agenda, the EU is controlling the agenda... and the Government is not listening to anyone," he said.

Taaffe clarified that Government was listening to business on issues like regulation or industry and other matters not primarily related to Brexit negotiations.

Consolidation deals 'rarely' last

Taaffe told PRWeek that Huntsworth's growth had come from a mixture of new clients and client expansions, but said: "Growing clients is always the most satisfying thing, because it says that you’re doing a great job."

He then said that Huntsworth's consumer and healthcare shop Red had been "superb at being able to do that [expand existing briefs] year in, year out".

However, Red has recently fallen victim to industry giant WPP landing a major deal with Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA), which has meant Red's work with UK high street pharmacist Boots being handed to Burson-Marsteller.

Of such deals, he said: "There is no right or wrong... we’ve benefitted from consolidating relationships at Grayling, and we’ve lost out on consolidating with Red." Grayling has expanded a major financial services client and an entertainment client of late, he said, but declined to name the companies.

However, he said deals on the scale of WPP's with WBA were unsustainable. "If you look at the WPP deals, they rarely last more than three or four years because client dissatisfaction starts pulling off bits of it," he said.

Read next: Grayling boss says company has 'liberated' itself from several 'exploitative' clients

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