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Britain and Europe – The impact on Interest Groups

British interest groups have generally been in a good position to lobby in Brussels as the British system has always involved flexible consultation between groups and the civil service, rather similar to that of the EU, whereas in other countries influence was mainly through the political parties, as in Italy, or through statutory chambers, as in Austria.

The direction of British interest group lobbying has changed:-

  • Groups in the early period of British membership sought to lobby British Government departments, as the veto in the Council of Ministers meant that they could block changes.
  • After the Single European Act, the role of the Commission was very important and even detailed regulations on harmonization could be of great importance to a business or environmental group. The Commission Directorates, often lacking in detailed expertise, have been very open to interests.
  • More recently the European Parliament has become important although building a coalition to get an amendment to legislation passed is very complicated.

Firms, especially, will join a Eurogroup which range from the European Bottled Watercooler Association to that for the tobacco industry.

As European policy has expanded so have the range of groups involved and conflicts occur, for example animal rights and religious groups combining to oppose genetic research by the pharmaceutical industry.

Policy agendas change rapidly in the EU as different national priorities come to the fore and many organisations employ lobbyists to keep in touch with what is happening.

The EU’s voluntary disclosure database of organisations and lobbyists, set up in 2011, has over 6000 entries and, even then, many important firms failed to register.

(Sonia Mazey and Jeremy Richardson, Parliamentary Affairs Vol. 45 No 1, 1992 have produced a good article on the topic)


****This page is under review following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union and Brexit process****