Lobbyists are Brexit's biggest beneficiaries, say campaigners

By Agencies
September 12, 2018

A new pamphlet details how Brexit has been a boon to lobbyists working behind the scenes to influence the process. Lobbyists are getting a Brexit dividend. 

Published by Spinwatch and Unlock Democracy, ‘Lobbyists: Brexit’s Biggest Beneficiaries’ shows how the job of designing workable policies is increasingly being outsourced to private sector lobbyists; how rising demand for insider access and information is leading to significant numbers of ex-ministers and officials moving to lobbying and law firms; how hospitality as a means of currying favour is still very much part of the lobbyists’ trade; and how propagandists and experts in ‘shaping public opinion‘ are seeing their value rise.

Beneficiaries of Brexit include transatlantic lobbying groups pushing the corporate vision of a post-Brexit UK where rights, protections, and standards are removed. The Initiative for Free Trade coordinates transatlantic lobbying groups, which at its launch in September 2017, International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox said his department would be “a very, very willing partner”. These groups have since set about drafting an ‘ideal’ US-UK free trade agreement. Also benefiting is the Red Tape Initiative, which is being helped by commercial lobbyists Hanbury Strategy and law/lobbying firms Dentons and Squire Patton Boggs to draw up a list of EU regulation it wants to ditch, expected to be published this autumn.

The pamphlet chronicles how Brexit has also been a financial boon for ex-government officials. Examples of those making use of the revolving doors between private and public sector include former EU Financial chief and ex-UK minister, Lord Jonathan Hill, who has been hired by elite law firm Freshfield Bruckhaus Deringer, whilst former UK foreign secretary, William Hague, is on the payroll of global law firm Linklaters.

Spinwatch and Unlock Democracy, which both campaign for lobbying transparency, have raised concerns about the influence of lobbyists on the Brexit process. These concerns are particularly acute given the lack of a comprehensive lobbying register in the UK. This means the public has very little recourse to scrutinising the influence activities of lobbyists and the decisions made by ministers they are working with.

Launching the report, its author Tamasin Cave, a researcher for Spinwatch, said: “To date the story of Brexit has been one of internal party wranglings, with very little attention given to the outside interests seeking to push their agenda through Brexit. If Theresa May is serious about delivering a Brexit that works for everyone, not just a privileged few, she urgently needs to open up the process to public scrutiny and let us see who is having a quiet word with whom, what they are lobbying for, and who benefits.”

Alexandra Runswick, Director of Unlock Democracy, said: “This pamphlet should be a wake-up call. Far from being about creating a more people-powered politics, the Brexit mantra of ‘taking back control’ has warped into the greater empowerment of lobbyists and private interests. The perception that politicians listen to big business more than to voters corrodes public trust in politics. We know that change is possible, and need to look no further than the comprehensive lobbying register in Scotland to see that lobbying can be brought into the open when the political will is there. A robust statutory lobbying register combined with more detailed ministerial diaries would create greater accountability and transparency around those seeking to influence policy, and would help voters feel they were taking back control of our democracy.”

* Read Lobbyists: Brexit’s Biggest Beneficiaries here

* Spinwatch http://spinwatch.org/

* Unlock Democracy http://www.unlockdemocracy.org/


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