Whitehouse celebrates successful EU public affairs campaign, on behalf of CLF Distribution, as EU Institutions amend a controversial piece of legislation

Leading public affairs and political communications specialists The Whitehouse Consultancy are celebrating the successful end of a 5-year European public affairs campaign on behalf of CLF Distribution.

The Whitehouse Consultancy have been guiding CLF Distribution, a leading UK wholesaler of premium sports nutrition products based in Southampton, through the process of amending a key piece of European legislation which set customs duties for importing products into Europe.

This 2008 law contained a defective test setting the tariffs that importers should pay on a range sport nutrition products. As the flawed test meant that higher tariffs were levied on these products, CLF Distribution had to face a huge and unjustified tax bill in customs tariffs from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) that put its very future in doubt.

Faced with overcoming a range of different interest groups, as well as the complex EU legislative process, the specialist EU affairs team at The Whitehouse Consultancy designed a strategic engagement campaign for CLF Distribution. This campaign helped the company to effectively engage with – and communicate the essential points of a complicated tax issue to – key stakeholders not only within the various European institutions, but also obtain the support of officials from the US Federal Government.

Repeated interventions with the European Commission, often with the assistance of influential supporters, such as Ashley Fox MEP and the US Department of Commerce, eventually led to a change in the law. The flawed test has been replaced and HMRC have now officially confirmed that the customs debt has been settled – meaning that CLF can now confidently plan for the future.

Chris Whitehouse, Chairman at The Whitehouse Consultancy said:

“We are delighted that CLF Distribution have won what has been an extremely challenging and complicated campaign. Persuading lawmakers to change legislation on tax issues is never easy at the best of times, but helping business successfully navigate complicated political and regulatory systems to allow them to get on and grow their company is what public affairs should be about.”

“To the EU team here at The Whitehouse Consultancy, the principle was clear – it was simply absurd that CLF Distribution were being forced to pay tax that they did not owe, because of a flawed test they could prove was wrong and that regulators and policy-makers acknowledged was defective. By developing a flexible yet clear strategy and summarising this issue for European Commission officials, Member State representatives and Members of the European Parliament – particularly one of CLF Distribution’s local representatives, Ashley Fox, – we were able to get the law changed, the tax demand dropped and the way cleared for CLF Distribution to focus on expanding their business.”

Robin Holiday, Managing Director at CLF Distribution, said:

“I am truly grateful to The Whitehouse Consultancy’s EU Team for their essential strategic guidance and for briefing supporters such as Ashley Fox, who provided invaluable assistance throughout this long struggle with the European institutions. Although we had presented cast-iron evidence to the European Commission that the test they were using on the products my company imported was simply wrong, meaning that I did not owe the money tax officials were demanding, I doubt we could have achieved the same outcome without the clear and coherent strategy laid out by The Whitehouse Consultancy and, of course, Ashley’s help. I want to thank him and The Whitehouse Consultancy for all their work on this issue.”

Ashley Fox MEP said:

“I’m pleased that after all these years I have been able to help CLF successfully resolve this huge problem. I was happy to help Robin navigate the complex EU institutions and worked particularly closely with the European Commission, who were also keen to wrap this issue up. It may have taken too long, but together we have found a way to not only change the law so that this will no longer happen in future – and affect other companies – but we have also been able to convince HMRC to withdraw their demand for customs. I look forward to seeing Robin and CLF continue to grow and create jobs and opportunities here in the South West.”

CLF Distribution Ltd is a leading UK wholesaler of premium sports nutrition products based in Southampton.

For further information or comment from CLF Distribution please contact Guillermo Serrano (+44 (0)20 74630668 / guillermo.serrano@whitehousecomms.com).