Brexit talks: EU and UK accused of prioritising lobbyists over civil society

Written by Martin Banks on 15 December 2017 in News

Both the EU and UK have been condemned for “side-lining” concerns of civil society in the Brexit talks by allegedly granting “extremely privileged access to corporate lobbyists.”

Brexit | Photo credit: Press Association

The attack by Corporate Europe Observatory and Global Justice Now comes after MEPs this week voiced concern that the issue of citizens’ rights remained unresolved despite the Brexit negotiations set to move to the second stage in the New Year.

The two pressure groups said their analysis had “exposed how official lobby meetings about Brexit and post-Brexit trade are being dominated by big corporate interests at the expense of civil society.”

A report on the issue was published on Thursday as EU leaders started to gather in Brussels to agree on opening talks regarding post-Brexit transition and trade.


Corporate Europe Observatory and Global Justice Now said that their figures “shine a light on the risk of Brexit being shaped by the concerns of big business, rather than those of the population as a whole.”

They are particularly critical of the UK, saying that the analysis of official statistics on lobby meetings with ministers from the UK’s Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU) and the Department for International Trade (DIT) between October 2016 and June this year allegedly reveals a “shared willingness to meet the representatives of big corporations above all others.”

The analysis alleges that finance sector and audit firms were “prominent” in the list of firms lobbying DExEU, with lobby organisation TheCityUK (eight meetings) and HSBC (seven meetings) near the top of the chart. Lloyds Bank, Goldman Sachs, Deloitte and PriceWaterhouseCoopers also all made the list (four meetings each).

Some 70 per cent of all meetings held by DExEU ministers were with business representatives, it is claimed.

The groups say, “Brexit lobby meetings are also likely to take place with DExEU officials not required to disclose meetings.”

It is claimed that the UK’s Brexit chief negotiator David Davis has met business representatives 29 times “but failed to even once meet groups representing those people most affected by Brexit - the over four million EU citizens in the UK and the British citizens living across the EU.”

The groups also say that over 90 per cent of all meetings held by DIT ministers were with corporate lobbyists. Civil society organisations were included in just three per cent of meetings, it is said.

A statement by Corporate Europe Observatory and Global Justice Now said, “The full list of meetings highlights just how rarely citizens and civil society have been heard by the negotiators, despite the fact that Brexit will directly affect the everyday lives of all UK residents.”

It goes on, “A similar pattern emerges at the EU level, with 72 per cent of meetings of the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier and his taskforce held with corporate interest representatives, with the finance sector as well as the food/agriculture sector dominating.

“The research also highlights the lack of lobby transparency around these meetings. Decision makers refuse to release participant lists, agendas, minutes and other documents from lobby meetings, making it impossible to know who exactly is in the room and which specific policy options are being discussed.”


About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine

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