Finance industry is UK's biggest lobbyist in Brussels

January 29th, 2015
by Vicky Cann

The UK is behind only Germany and France in terms of hosting lobbyists operating at the EU level (we screen out Belgium as many organisations based there represent pan-European interests) and the LobbyFacts rankings provide a fascinating insight into the biggest lobbying organisations coming from the UK.

The top 11 biggest company spenders on EU lobbying which provide a UK-based address in the EU lobby register are as follows:

Company

EU lobbying expenses

Lloyds Banking Group (finance)

2,000,000 - 1,750,000

British American Tobacco (BAT)

1,750,000 - 1,500,000

Rolls-Royce (aerospace)

1,750,000 - 1,500,000

BP (energy)

1,500,000 - 1,250,000

International Airlines Group

1,500,000 - 1,250,000

Samsung Electronics Europe

1,250,000 - 1,000,000

Universal Music Group International

1,000,000 - 900,000

BT Group (telecommunications)

950,000

GlaxoSmithKline (pharmaceuticals)

700,000 - 600,000

Argus Media

600,000 - 500,000

London Stock Exchange Group (finance)

600,000 - 500,000

Together they spent a total of €12,650,000 on EU-level lobbying in the most recent year for which figures were available (based on taking a mid-way average where a range is given).

Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the same names appear in the list of UK companies with the most lobby passes accredited with the European Parliament (these passes allow the bearer virtually unlimited access to the Parliament's buildings): GlaxoSmithKline has eight accredited lobbyists; Samsung has seven; BAT five; BP four; and Rolls Royce has two. Rolls Royce says that in total it has 48 staff who work on EU lobbying in some way.

Another UK company declaring a large number of lobbyists is National Grid (energy) which declares that it has 20 lobbyists working on EU issues and three accredited lobbyists. Yet in the year to March 2014 National Grid registered less than €50,000 lobby expenses; this seems a rather low figure considering its lobbyist numbers.

However, out-spending every individual UK company is the Association for Financial Markets in Europe (AFME) which spent more than €10 million on Brussels lobbying in the year to October 2013 and making it the UK's biggest EU-registered lobbying organisation. AFME says it represents “the leading global and European banks and other significant capital market players”. 2012-13 was a busy year for financial industry lobbying with the markets in financial instruments directive (MiFID) and other financial regulations going through the European Parliament; these were successfully watered down by the finance industry lobby.

Alongside AFME, the other big UK-based trade associations active at the EU level are as follows:

Trade association

EU lobbying expenses

International Association of Oil & Gas Producers

1,800,000

Digital Interoperability Forum

800,000 - 900,000

Scotch Whisky Association

700,000 - 800,000

Scottish Fishermen's Federation

700,000 - 800,000

European Competitive Telecommunications Association

650,000

International Fur Federation

500,000 - 600,000

Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales

500,000 - 600,000

Confederation of British Industry

450,000 - 500,000

Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances

400,000 - 450,000

In total, these 10 organisations spent €16,675,000 on EU-level lobbying in the most recent year for which figures were available (again based on taking a mid-way average where a range is given).

AFME declares five accredited lobbyists and 50 lobby staff in total; other UK finance sector lobbyists declaring large numbers of lobbying staff include the British Bankers' Association (15 lobbyists and two accredited); HSBC Holdings (five declared; two accredited); Bank of America (four declared; two accredited); and Fidelity Worldwide Investment (two declared; two accredited).

Meanwhile the Confederation of British Industry (the UK employers' organisation) lists 12 lobbyists, eight accredited. Previous Corporate Europe Observatory research has shown that the finance lobby is one of Brussels' largest with a likely spend of more than €120 million per year and employing more than 1700 lobbyists.

There are also several UK-based lobby firms, companies offering lobby services to paying clients, operating in Brussels. The biggest ones are G Plus with a lobby turnover of €3,500,000 - 3,750,000 and FIPRA International with €3,250,000 – 3,500,000. G Plus registers 43 lobbyists, 24 of them accredited; FIPRA declares 26 lobbyists; 21 accredited.

When it comes to UK-based non-corporate interests represented in the lobby register, environmental and animal welfare interests come high up the list of NGOs with accredited lobbyists: ClientEarth has seven; Environmental Justice Foundation has five; the National Advisory Council to the Thalidomide Trust, five; Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, five; and World Animal Protection, also five.

An organisation called Battelle which is an “independent contract research organisation providing support to life sciences organisations seeking to register their products for sale” declares itself as a lobby consultancy with 80 lobbyists and a lobbying turnover of €9,500,000 – €9,750,000 in the year to September 2014. If true, that would make it the UK's third biggest EU lobby actor, but this is surely a mistake.

Another company called JJ Tactical also registers itself as a lobby consultancy and declared €5 million lobby expenditure in the year to March 2014. However it describes itself as a “UK based Homeland Tactical Security and Strategic Defence Risk Company” and it is likely that the details of this registration are also a mistake.

Other UK entries which also appear to show a misunderstanding or misreading of the rules about the disclosure of lobbyist numbers include the following, all of whom list ridiculously high lobbyist numbers, yet no accredited lobbyists:

Company

Lobbyists declared

Wienerberger
(manufactures clay and concrete building products).

900

Getty Images
(primary business is the licensing of images and other copyright works)

350

Lower Reule Farm
(growing and supply of soft fruit)

240

VERIPOS
(provides navigation and positioning solutions)

125

Frimstone
(quarry and recycling business)

100

Andrew Muirhead & Son
(manufacture and supply of seating leather)

100

The only other UK registered organisation which comes to near to matching AFME's €10 million plus lobby spend is Bird & Bird which also declares €10 million expenditure in the year to April 2013. This makes it the law firm with the biggest lobbying turnover in the whole register, alongside Beiten Burkhardt, which declares the same amount. Bird & Bird is one of the relatively few law firms which carry out EU lobby activities and which bother to register. However, its entry makes clear that it refuses to declare any of its lobby clients, which is a breach of the EU lobby register guidelines and leaves the reader none the wiser as to its lobby activities.

In the view of the LobbyFacts organisers, the EU lobby transparency register is littered with unreliable, opaque and sometimes misleading entries. This data reflects the failure of the so-called voluntary approach to lobby disclosure and both the lack of willingness and the lack of capacity of the register organisers to effectively monitor the register's data and to enforce the disclosure rules.

All data was correct as of 19 January 2015. Please see our disclaimer.

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