A tweet caught my eye this morning:

This is an extract from a report by Corporate Europe Observatory and Global Justice Now that examines how many meetings lobbyists have held with DExEU in the UK and with Barnier’s Brexit task force. The summary of the report is here, and the full PDF here.

I’m only going to look at the EU side of this – I have had no contact with DExEU and hence cannot comment on that. But I have kept a close eye on the EU side.

There are two points where I largely agree with the report: I have no reason to really quibble about the stat itself about how many meetings have taken place (although blasting CER as too business friendly strikes me as OTT), and that it needed a FOI request to get the data is wrong from the EU side – this data ought to simply be published.

But the real question here is this: why are there more meetings with business lobbyists about Brexit than with NGOs? Is it – as the report implies – that the Commission’s task force under Barnier is biased towards big business? Or is it actually simply that the Commission is open to speak to whatever organisations want to speak with its task force, and there are more businesses that want to do so than there are NGOs?

I’d tend to think it’s the latter. The fledgling organisation British in Europe I’ve been involved with has had no problem with communication with the Commission’s task force. Boss of the NGO BEUC (European Consumers’ Organisation) Monique Goyens confirmed on Twitter the EU side has been open to their contact:

Politico journalist Quentin Ariès sees it the same way:

In short it strikes me the problem here is that there are not enough NGOs trying to lobby the Commission, not that the Commission is not ready to listen to them. I’d love to hear of NGOs approaching the Commission Brexit Task Force with sensible requests who have been turned down. Only then would the line pursued by Global Justice Now and Corporate Europe Observatory actually be correct.

[UPDATE – 1.9.2017, 1240]
Corporate Europe Observatory has tried to defend itself on Twitter. Their argument seems to basically be that there are more business lobbyists than there are NGO lobbyists, and the Barnier task force has to realise this and balance things out. Whole thread here:


So the Commission has to sort it out because NGOs aren’t lobbying actively enough.

[UPDATE – 1.9.2017, 1630]
Quentin Ariès has put some further thoughts about this in a Twitter thread – his point about what consultation ought to happen at what times in the Brexit negotiations is especially important:

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