CAMPAIGNS: CAMRA battles with Brussels - Lobbying

On 5 August 1996, the European Commission announced its decision to pursue a legal challenge to the UK’s Guest Beer provision, on the grounds that it unfairly discriminated against imports. The provision allows tenants of national brewers to buy one cask of conditioned beer from a chosen supplier.

On 5 August 1996, the European Commission announced its decision to

pursue a legal challenge to the UK’s Guest Beer provision, on the

grounds that it unfairly discriminated against imports. The provision

allows tenants of national brewers to buy one cask of conditioned beer

from a chosen supplier.



The Commission’s announcement sparked a campaign by CAMRA, the Campaign

for Real Ale, to overturn the decision which it saw as a threat to

consumer choice and to the livelihoods of hundreds of small brewers.



Objectives



To ensure that the Guest Beer provision continued to serve the interests

of consumers and small brewers.



Tactics



CAMRA tracked the issue for two years before the announcement, following

reports that an official complaint had been made about the Guest Beer

provision to the Commission by a British importer of German beer.

Initial efforts focused on advising the Commission and MEPs on the

likely outcome of any significant changes to the provision.



By liaising with groups such as the European Brewers’ Association,

research was carried out to counter the Commission’s claim that cask

conditioned beer was a predominantly British product.



The campaign escalated with the Commission’s announcement which came 24

hours before CAMRA’s National Beer Festival.



’It was a terrific opportunity,’ says CAMRA’s campaigns manager Stephen

Cox. ’We had a ready-made audience of journalists and MPs to whom we

could say, look at all these small brewers who could go out of business

if the Guest Beer disappeared.’



To encourage grass roots support from CAMRA members and the general

public, CAMRA produced 150,000 leaflets which were distributed to pubs,

beer festivals and local CAMRA branches. Political lobbying continued

with regular CAMRA briefings involving the DTI and the British Beer

Club, a group of British MEPs who took part in the discussions with the

Commission.



Results



The Commission’s legal challenge is currently on hold. In March, the DTI

announced consultation on an extension to the Guest Beer provision,

which it claims the Commission will support, and also clarified which

beers qualify as cask conditioned. The extension is supported by CAMRA

who says it will improve consumer choice.



Verdict



CAMRA’s campaign needs to be considered as part of a wider effort by a

number of pressure groups to overturn the Commission’s challenge - which

is on hold, not at an end.



While CAMRA’s earlier literature was criticised by some as being

anti-Brussels, the general view from the brewing industry is that the

campaign was swift, vociferous and effective at harnessing public

opinion to its cause.



Client: CAMRA - the Campaign for Real Ale

PR Team: In-house

Campaign: Saving the Guest Beer

Timescale: August 1996 - March 1997

Cost: pounds 7,000



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