The UK and Europe
Who will stand up for UK’s interests in the EU after the Brexit?
Doru Frantescu / Aug 2016
Theresa May and François Hollande. Photo: Shutterstock
Once Britain will lose its representatives in the European Union institutions, the British stakeholders, both public and private, will have to find new channels of influencing European policy, as the decisions made in Brussels will continue to impact substantially on the British interests. Which representatives are more likely to be receptive to the claims and concerns of British stakeholders? In order to answer this question, VoteWatch Europe mapped the most likely coalition partners that the UK-based interest groups can work with. Notably, these potential partners are different in the Council and the European Parliament.
In regards to the Council, VoteWatch Europe has shown that in the Brexit aftermath, France and Italy seem best positioned to hold the keys for the success of legislative proposals in the institution representing national governments. However, by comparing Britain’s past voting records with those of France and Italy, we can see that they have been diverging on major policy issues.
On the contrary, the voting behaviour data analyzed by VoteWatch Europe shows that Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark have been Britain’s closest allies and these three governments seem to represent the natural first destinations for the continued lobbying and communications efforts of British stakeholders following Brexit. The positions of the British government have received backing from these countries on several important issues including internal market, transport, environment, foreign policy and foreign aid.
However, as shown by the above-mentioned VoteWatch Europe’s analysis on the Council, these three countries are not the strongest coalition builders in the Council, ie. they find themselves in minority more often than other member states (especially the Netherlands). This means that, depending on the policy area considered, UK-reliant stakeholders will need to target also other countries in the Council in order to ensure a positive outcome for their advocacy activity.
The outlook for the European Parliament is more blurred. In the absence of a clear role in the Brexit negotiations led by the Council, it is likely that some British MEPs will lose their committee posts and other roles in the mid-term reshuffle, due at the end of 2016 / January 2017. The Parliament as a whole will shift to the left on the economic dimension, after the departure of its strongest anti-regulatory delegation.
The anticipated trend is that political parties within the Parliament will consolidate around the existing power blocks of the EPP, ALDE and S&D and the current tendency towards grand-coalition solutions and sometimes back room deals will go on.
In order to find the next best partners for those who so far were relying on the UK Conservative Party to fight for their interests in the European Parliament, we compared the voting records of the British Tories with the ones of other 8 centre-right wing parties (members of EPP, ECR and ALDE).
We found that the matching rates differ considerably across the policy areas. Not surprisingly (given their ideological affinities), the Polish Conservatives of Law and Justice are the closest ally of the British Tories in the EP when it comes to the internal market and economic affairs. As regards international trade issues (such as TTIP, CETA), the German and Scandinavian centre-right parties are the closest partners.
Eventually, we used the same criteria to compare the voting records of the UK’s Labour Party with 8 other centre-left parties, all members of S&D.
Interestingly, among the parties considered, the Romanians in S&D are the closest ally of UK’s Labour Party in all the three policy sectors considered. The fact that the highest matching rates of the two UK’s largest parties (Tories and Labour) are observed with parties from Eastern and Central Europe also highlights the liberal and pro-business attitude of the MEPs from former communist countries. Interestingly, UK’s Labour party is closer to its German and Italian partners than to the Swedish and Dutch ones (which indicates that the best partners in the Parliament may be different than those in the Council and that these should be looked for on a case by case basis).
For the reasons outlined above, we are expecting a surge in the number of communications and advocacy initiatives coming from the UK to be redirected through the next best channels of influence. These are likely to be the Swedish, Dutch and Danish representatives in the Council, while in the EP the picture is more diverse: the Eastern and Central Europeans, the centre-right Swedish and Dutch parties, as well as the centre-left Italian and German parties. What remains to be seen is whether these representatives will be receptive to the claims and concerns of British stakeholders.