One thing is certain: Brexit has weakened EU-UK relations. But far from turning into the divorce Britain was seeking, the separation will require both sides to work with each other more closely than ever before.
While leaving out some key areas, the 1,246-page EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement sets up a new horizontal governance framework, including binding enforcement and dispute settlement mechanisms that must ensure a level-playing field between businesses on either side of the Channel. What this means in practice is that both EU and UK policy and political frameworks will follow parallel routes and key players on either side will need to influence each other where needed.
Sounds far from straightforward? Because it isn’t.
Some reassurance to some UK-based organisations should come from knowing that it is possible to continue (or start) to engage with the EU on the detail of the deal, the future of EU policy and the impact of these decisions. And now that a deal is out, the process should be less political than it’s been for the past four and a half years, with more opportunities for meaningful conversations about policies and regulations that have a real and tangible impact on businesses and the third sector.
It may seem a daunting task the first time around, but here are three steps to follow:
- Monitor developments of relevance
It is vital for any organisation to be on top of developments in key areas and get in the game early before new legislative initiatives are even announced. Reading EU policy outlets such as Politico and Euractiv can be a useful way to keep up to speed on upcoming policy initiatives in your sector, whereas other tools such as the European Parliament’s legislative train can give you an overview of where various pieces of legislation are at.
You should also map your stakeholders very carefully! This will not only enable you to fully understand the landscape, complex policy issues, political pressures and resistance, but also to sense what types of initiatives are coming your way.
- Respond in a timely manner to upcoming initiatives
Knowing what is on the EU agenda in the months and years to come provides for opportunities to know when, how and where to pitch in. An example of this is that when the European Commission is starting consultations, it will be planning to propose a legislative initiative. Providing feedback to such consultations will ensure your views are considered early on in the process.
Obtaining timely insights on the EU policy process and political landscape will also enable you to make informed decisions on how to operate your business in the most desirable way. It will allow those who have dealings with the EU to know opportunities and threats, and anticipate new developments that might help or hinder their growth in the future. In other words, this forms a good basis for the development and implementation of strategic approaches to influence decisionmakers in policy matters that are crucial to your organisation.
- Have your voice heard by adding something new to the debate
Key to amplifying your messages at the EU level is having a narrative, delivered to the right stakeholders at the right time. It is essential that you work on messaging that will resonate with those who eventually call the shots in Brussels, and to ensure you can build strong relationships with those who matter.
Depending on the resources available, there are various ways to attract the desired attention in Brussels. You would need a clear vision on what you would like to achieve with engagement in the EU and how to go about it. You might consider going solo or, alternatively, act as a member of trade associations when they are best placed to articulate your specific interest on behalf of a bigger group.
Face-to-face or online meetings are a strong recommendation for taking strides in engagement, supplemented by – for example – organising an event, bringing together a group of stakeholders interested in the topic you want to bring forward. Such an event provides for a platform to get your narrative across with an audience that matters. It would provide room for finding alliances with like-minded organisations and policymakers and identification of future opportunities for collaboration to mitigate any potential policy risks.
Engagement on social media platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn is also an effective (and cheap!) strategic tool, when done well. Stakeholders increasingly resort to the online world to disseminate and obtain information. It is therefore an excellent way to raise awareness of your messages, such as by highlighting relevant research that supports your claims and asks.
Navigating the EU policy and regulatory maze seems daunting? Get in touch.
To help businesses and other organisations be visible and stay relevant in the European arena, the Whitehouse Consultancy offers EU affairs trainings. We aim to help businesses and professionals to acquire the knowledge and skills to effectively define, shape and represent their interests at an EU level. We provide tailored trainings linking theory to practice, as we not only thoroughly explain how the EU works and how to do public affairs in Brussels, but will also handle a case study to deepen practical application on building an effective public affairs strategy.
For more information on our EU work, please contact our Director of European Affairs, Viviana Spaghetti at Viviana.firstname.lastname@example.org