Doubling Down on the EU

As the nature of the relationship between the UK and the EU changes, it’s never been more important to understand the ‘how and why’ of lobbying in Brussels. In July, Milos Labovic, author of EU Superlobby: Winning in Brussels, joined the CIPR’s Public Affairs Group in an online conversation to explore what this new relationship could look like and what lobbyists in both Brussels and the UK need to consider.

Pharmaceutical companies in America are closely watching the EU’s efforts to regulate orphan drugs.

Banks in Africa monitor how the EU will set capital requirements.

And the EU’s taxonomy on sustainable finance (dubbed the most boring piece of legislation known to man) might revolutionise how investors in the City think about return on investment.

Politics aside, the EU will continue to be important for achieving the UK’s domestic and global ambitions. As the UK will no longer be able to rely on votes and vetoes in Brussels to influence the EU, the future will belong to the public affairs professional who understands both Westminster and the Berlaymont.

Now is the time for the Westminster public affairs professional to double down on EU Affairs.

After we finally get Brexit done, UK organisations and businesses will not be able to piggyback on the UK government’s shoulders for access to the EU institutions. They will need to develop an everyday habit of monitoring EU policies and find new ways to influence them.

This might seem overwhelming. It is not.

EU politics is unbelievably predictable and public affairs professionals from Westminster will be surprised that getting an appointment with European Commission civil servants or Members of European Parliament is astonishingly easy.

Where to start then? How about registering for Politico’s EU Playbook next to the London Playbook? Don’t only focus on Her Majesty’s speech, but also analyse the European Commission’s political guidelines and their yearly work program. Be in the loop which country holds the EU presidency. Make a list of relevant Members of the European Parliament. Establish a working rapport with relevant civil servants from the European Commission. Invest in a membership of a Brussels-based association. And of course make sure you coordinate with the UK’s Mission to the EU.

In short, make EU politics part of your daily routine.

Finally- go to Brussels (when it is safe to do so, of course)! If you are into the development policy go to the annual European Development Days. Environmental issues more your thing? Go to the annual European Green Week. But be careful not to go to Brussels when the European Parliament is in Strasbourg, as you will find an empty Brussels. Nothing will give you a look and feel of Brussels than actually being there. And whilst there, enjoy the good food and wine and don’t feel guilty; joi de vivre is an intricate part of Brussels political dynamics.

There is an anecdote floating around that after the referendum, the number one search query in Google in the UK was “what is the EU”.

I can very much relate.

Somewhere that same week I ordered my book “Westminster for Dummies”.  I came to the painful conclusion I knew almost nothing about the parliamentary procedures and political culture of Westminster.

As the final details of Brexit are being worked out, the responsibility to establish a structural dialogue between the EU and the UK will shift from politicians and diplomats to public affairs professionals.

Our clients and organisations will rely on us to make sense of it all and navigate them through the new political landscape. I am doubling down on UK politics hoping to be at the forefront of new EU-UK relations. I invite my Westminster public affairs colleagues to do the same for the EU. Welcome (back) to Brussels.

Milos Labovic has been working in European Union affairs for over 15 years, beginning his career as an EU advisor to the Serbian government. He has represented the Dutch Provinces in Brussels and was EU Specialist for the Dutch House of Representatives.

He is the author of EU Superlobby: Winning in Brussels and an EU public affairs practitioner. You can follow him on Twitter at @eu_milos.

Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash

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