Government's reputation casting a shadow over UK firms lobbying the EU

The British Government’s reputation in the EU is at such a low ebb that British public affairs firms are better off lobbying directly or via trade bodies, warns a new report by Brussels-based strategic communications consultancy Low Associates.

British firms are being urged to step up their lobbying efforts in Brussels
British firms are being urged to step up their lobbying efforts in Brussels

British firms need to invest in building long-term relationships with the EU if they are to influence future policymaking, according to the Mind the Gap report.

“No amount of diplomatic activity by UK officials can do more than scratch the surface of the intelligence and influence which is needed to promote UK interests” and “the effect of lobbying within Brussels by UK officials may even be counterproductive, at least in the short term”, the report says.

'Can’t get meetings with commissioners'

Nicholas Lunt, campaigns director, Low Europe, and one of the authors of the Mind the Gap report, told PRWeek: “Being a representative of Her Majesty’s Government in Brussels and endeavouring to present a UK Government view to the European institutions is very difficult. I have heard from people working in the UK Mission to the EU that people are not answering the phone. They can’t get meetings with commissioners.''

He warned: “You can’t be sure that the British Government is going to be representing your interests in the best way and neither can you be sure that if they try to do so that the messages they are communicating are going to be listened to in a positive mindset because the political rhetoric has been so combative.”

The report says that businesses looking to lobby the EU need to avoid being “characterised in Britain as ‘Remoaners’ who want to re-run the Referendum debate, or are unwilling to accept the result”.

'Learn the US approach'

It argues that British companies can learn from the American Chamber of Commerce to the EU (AmChamEU), which is “recognised as one of the most important lobbying organisations in Brussels”. 

The “networks of influence” that AmChamEU and other US entities have constructed over previous decades “represent a model which comparable UK entities should seek to emulate”.

The report cites the view of Susan Danger, head of AmChamEU, that UK firms “must demonstrate that they are committed to building trusting and profound relationships with the EU institutions”.

It argues that British businesses and organisations need to create or develop their independent representation, and the CBI, Federation of Small Businesses, and British Chambers of Commerce in Brussels “need to be strengthened”. 

The report states: “In many key sectors, the representative organisations will need to supplement their membership of European organisations with an independent capacity to operate and build long-term relationships with policymakers in EU institutions; and in the representation of EU member states.”

CCHQ was contacted but did not respond to a request for comment.

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