Britain’s Future in Europe (London: I.B.Tauris, 2016)

What Next?,  Britain’s Future in Europe,  by Peter Wilding

Bye bye Europe

On 23rd June 2016 the British people voted to leave the EU by 52% to 48%.  Peter Wilding was at the heart of the debate. He has been labelled as the man who came up with the phrase “Brexit”.  This timely pamphlet of 106 pages examines Britain’s fractured relationship with Europe post World War II. From Britain seeking a role post Empire, to one of the big 3 steering the EU (along with France and Germany), and since 23rd June 2016 a country groping for a role in the 21st century.

Not A Kiss and Tell

This book is not truth and tell expose of the failed Remain campaign. That campaign sought to emulate the result of the 6th June 1975 referendum on the UK’s membership of the EEC, when 67% voted to stay and 32% voted to leave. The Remain campaign, advised by Peter Mandelson, embraced Project Fear, and sought to brow beat the British electorate by hectoring implicit threats from “Big Industry” and nightmare stories of economic carnage. What worked in 1975 did not work in 2016.

Peter Wilding was one of the few Remainers who challenged this failed thinking. I remember chatting with Peter about this from my hospital bed. I asked whether the Remain campaign was taken over by deep plant Leavers, so irrational and out of step with modern campaigning models . Peter assured me that such concerns were misplaced.

 The British Victim Syndrome – Still Sulking Over the Loss of Empire

The book simply and clearly examines what role Britain has played with post World War II and the  loss of its Empire.

As President Truman’s Secretary State, Dean Acheson, is often quoted “Great Britain has lost an empire and has not yet found a role.” Britain is still looking for that role. As Wilding suggests whilst Britain can shine as a power, it all too often prefers to sulk.

The debate on the role of the UK in the EU during the campaign was surreal. The UK has managed to change the EU into the very image it wanted. Indeed, if it had remained, those changes would have deepened. Instead, a small majority of the British people choose to believe a small group of politicians who have done no actual law making in Brussels, except for turning up for 2 minute speeches from the floor for YouTube consumption.

Smart Power

Wilding looks at where the UK can go from where it is today. He makes it to embrace a combination of hard power and soft power that he terms “smart power”.

The Myth of Empire

I naturally don’t agree with everything put forward by this former Conservative Parliamentary Candidate. Wilding is uncritical of the British Empire, which whilst it may have brought unparalleled prosperity and power for Britain, was brought about by the economic, political and cultural subjugation of  many of the colonial nations. Gladstone, surely Britain’s greatest Prime minister, dislike of Disraeli was in large part due to Gladstone’s loathing of the British Empire.

After World War II the Americans systematically obliterated the British Empire. It was a condition of financial support during World War II. This empire not only supplied, in the case of India so much of the British Army, but the economic model and lifeline for mainland Britain. After World War II, the Commonwealth, a genuine free association of liberated countries, would never replicate the Imperial preference model. And, if people were not living in some nostalgia La La land, they would realise that the Empire, was forced upon other countries against their will. An economic system of subjugation was bound to have economic impacts on a country when it ended.But, La La land still is a dominate idea in Britain.

What Role Should Europe Play

Wilding reminds us that the EU’s promise is that it will provide prosperity, and allow countries to flourish and prosper under common core laws, a common economic order and (for many) common currency. I agree with him strongly.

Today, it is clear that Europe is not working.  Instead, nationalism and populism, demons we had hoped had died in the fires of the horrors of 1939-1944, have returned. Instead, as Wilding notes, the EU Commission and Member States have chosen to force-feed federalism, which has led to greater political fractures and popular disassociation with the very idea of the EU. The EU has failed to apply its political will and its European duty to maintain stability at home, let alone abroad.

Wilding notes this does not have to be the case.  Europe can return to its prized mission of free trade, low unemployment, a high growth high-growth economy, supported by strong values and smart power. These strong values, democracy, freedom and the rule of law, need to be at the cornerstone of Europe.

At the moment, countries like Poland and Hungary, are flagrantly debasing these core principles. It is self evident that they would fail to meet the basic criteria for admission to the EU.

It is with regret, with orange exceptions, that President Juncker and his team, are not the people to return Europe to returning Europe to their prized mission.

What Next

It is worth reminding ourselves that Britain has, not yet, overturned the cornerstone of the UK constitution, namely Parliamentary Sovereignty. Decisions in the UK are not taken by the People but by the British Parliament. Any final decision on the UK’s departure, or not, from the EU will be taken by the British Parliament.

The British Parliament will also take the decision on what future direction Britain should take. At the moment, and for the foreseeable future, that direction will be set by the Conservative Party. The UK Labour Party, Her Majesty’s Opposition (of which I am a long term member) is not up to the job of providing an opposition.
The Conservative Party is divided into two camps. One, embraces the horrors of the 1950s, wants to severely limit immigration, leave the EU Single Market, and embrace protectionism. A far smaller group want Britain to be like Singapore on amphetamines, a free trade paradise.  I regret that Little Britain will win.

I recommend reading this timely and needed contribution to the future of Britain and Europe.

Better Law Making Comes to REACH

Every so often you get a call that makes you praise the day and thank that common sense is sometimes listened to inside the Commission.

Today was one of those days.

Someone very high up in the Commission has forced the Commission Services to change their position on REACH and Better Regulation.

Substance bans in the EU introduced by REACH are by way of delegated legislation. After a substance has gone through the ECHA process there is, if nominated for a substance ban or restriction, very little you as a user or producer can do. For a long time, the Commission Services dealing with REACH have resisted REACH being brought under the Better Regulation rules.

It seems after reading this public consultation – here – and the 4 week review –  the days of rubber stamped bans are gone.

The  public consultation documents are well reading. The Commission mentions that they have socio-economic impact assessments for the bans they  want  introduced. I wonder if people impacted by the ban will put forward a FoI request for the assessment.

Many people may not like the more political and less technical Commission of today. But, sometimes it takes the political grown ups to step in, ignore the bureaucratic and political inertia, and force the sunlight of open law making to shine in. When they do, delegated laws that ignore common sense, like the withdrawn roaming charge rules, are snatched back.  This new ethos will force Cabinets to take control of even delegated legislation, and help them make sure the bans they intend to introduce do not have deeply harming unintended (or intended) impacts.


How to Measure Success for a lobbyist

I am coming up to 20 years working on influencing EU legislation.

I have sat around the legislative table from many sides. I have watched the process of law making from the EP, Commission, lobbyist for NGOs and for industry, and as an academic. The UK leaving the EU means the chances of seeing things from the Member State side is fading fast.

Did it all make a difference?

A simple question keeps coming up. “How can you measure if you have influenced the law being adopted”. Here things the answers get foggy. A lot of people talk about amendments tabled as a good indicator of success. It is certainly a good measure of how busy you have been, but I am not sure it is a reliable indicator of success or influence. For really reasons never really clear to me, some talk about mentions in the press and even the amount of tweets issued/re-tweeted.


A simple and accurate tracking system

So, coming up to 20 years in sunny Brussels, I return to my gut instinct. There is a very simple. Did your preferred outcome get adopted in the final Directive/Regulation.  It is a simple “measure of success.” It is also an accurate measure.

It has a simple benefit for any donor or interest.  You can track if your investments are working by tracking the follow:
  1.  inclusion in the Commission’s proposal (particularly important for comitology votes),
  2. adoption by the EP,
  3.  adoption by the Council, and
  4. inclusion in the final law.
You can make it all very simple and just see if your preferred option is included in the final law (option 4). After all, nothing much else matters.
Other measures, like the tabling of amendments, and to be honest, options 1, 2 and 3, are just steps in the way to step 4.
Don’t use this measure – even if it should be the only important thing
Philanthropists may want to add a measure of seeing the law implemented and the desired outcome of the law come into effect. Did fish stocks recover, did air pollution decline, or did death rates decline.
For the policy entrepreneur this is alluring but very dangerous. Don’t have a success fee based on this. Why? The EU has such a poor record on the adoption and implementation of much of our environmental and conservation law, and certainly its fisheries conservation laws, making the jump from “good laws in place” to “good outcomes in practice” is  a very big jump. To be held to account from getting the right laws in place – which is hard enough – to seeing them be implemented and deliver on their policy intentions, is (sadly) too much. Having your renumeration tied to that, shows you are made of sterner stuff.
How you can track
 Fortunately, this is all quite easy to track today. Vote Watch Europe let’s you track how much support your issue is  getting. You can see how many votes you get in the full Parliament. Votes in the Committee and Council are often harder to track. You can see if your desired policy outcome is adopted when the final draft law is published in the Official Journal. That is the final measure of success.

Can lobbying be simplified?



I have just read Richard Koch’s ‘Simplify‘. He describes how companies who are prepared to simplify their product or service offering reap remarkable returns. IKEA, Ryanair, and the  Boston Consulting Group all took the step and are doing very well.

Firms can either price simplify, usually cutting their prices by 50-90%. Or firms can  proposition simplify, by creating a product or service that is useful, appealing and very easy to use.  IKEA has done the first, Apple the second.  Interestingly, you can’t do both.


Services Don’t Need to Be Complex – A KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) Model

Boston Consulting Group simplified strategic consulting for the C Suite.  BCG supplied a simple, universal model that was applicable to any business or industry. It was so clear and made so much sense that industry leaders called them in to simplify their companies. NGOs like Amnesty International, Greenpeace, and WWF are now using them.


Can Lobbying Be Simplified?

Why does the service of influencing the EU or  any government seem so complex, when it is not.

Lobbying,  or the service of persuading politicians and civil servants, of your client’s or cause’s interest, is when it is chunked down simple.

A model could be created that chunks lobbying down to its key constituent parts, namely:

  • Process
  • People
  • Values

Process – are you following the right maps?

I guesstimate there around 50 main procedures for the adoption and passage of legislation in Europe. I have written on several of them before.

If you work on certain specific regulated area, for example chemicals, there are additional procedures.

I see these procedures as maps. If you have the wrong map, the chance of getting to where you want to be goes down a lot. But, for some reason, people seem very reluctant to show the map on how to get to the end point.

Sometimes, people don’t even seem to realise that the map they are using is for the wrong journey.  I have met people who want to use the same trusted map for ordinary legislation when the journey they are embarking on is for delegated legislation. At first glance, there may be similarities, but if you look a little more in detail, you’ll quickly see that the map needed is very different.


People Matter

It seems to be a surprise to some, but there are people behind the proposals, votes and adoption on any law. If you are not persuading the right people, at the right time, the chance of you winning goes down dramatically.

Fortunately, law making in the EU is very open. It is not hard to find out the names of the Commission officials dealing with a file, let alone the politicians. The officials names are easy enough to find out, and the politicians contacts details and their involvement in an issue on the public record. Tracking down the Member State officials dealing with the file in Brussels and at home is trickier, but it can be found.

I guesstimate that on any legislative file there are now more than 250 people in Europe who will decide. I used to think it was 500 but have revised it downwards with time. Finding out the names is not too hard, if you know your area.

The key thing is to know who the key decision makers and influencers are in reality. There are usually a few unknown key players who Presidents, Prime ministers, Commissioners, and politicians will turn to and ask them how to vote. The trick is knowing who they are.

In the Juncker Commission, a lot of key decisions land up in the hands of a few people. If you speak to them early enough you may well find things going in the right direction for you.


Values – Are you speaking their value language

I am forever amazed how often people will pitch an issue to a politician or civil servant that totally ignores the likely values of the person they are speaking to. I have witnessed total train wrecks of meetings were companies explained to a socialist politician they had to do something because otherwise a huge and very profitable multi-national may have their profits impacted. NGOs sometimes try the same technique and reason to the same politician that it matters not if all of europe would deindustrialize, and harm many trade union jobs, if a rare grass was perhaps saved.

If you have the right map and know the right people, and then throw the meeting and you case away by accidentally making the politician or civil servant angry and against your case,  you have done your interests a great disservice.

It does not have to be that way. You can read Chris Rose’s “What Makes People Tick” if you want to learn to easily make your case resonate with your audience. Some people can of course do this naturally, but there are still a lot of train wrecks.


What you Don’t Need

You don’t need to know as much as your client on their issue. You need as much as the politician or civil servant needs to know and turn what your client wants to say into language that makes sense to decision maker. I remember getting a call from a Head of Cabinet to welcome me to a new position. He said he realised someone new was in place because he and the Commissioner could for the first time understand what the organisation was asking for. I had removed the scientific jargon and banished equations from the letter. They were left in the technical annex which was discussed by the Commission’s technical experts, but not the Commissioner or his Head of Cabinet. And, to this day, I have now idea what the equations mean.

Other useful things for the journey

 Of course, your case has to make sense, and you need to deliver the actions. Many journeys in lobbying fail because people don’t take a step forward, or only start walking when the process has gone too far.

Having a guide, or shepherd, to show you the way can be useful. But, maybe the guide/shepherd may simplify the process so much that they produce an app to help you on the journey, or just be available by skype if you have any questions.

I guess I better go and draw some more maps .