European Movement UK

Britain's future is with Europe! Join the debate and put your opinion forward!

by Gergely Polner, Head of EU Affairs, British Bankers Association///

There have been media reports for years about the decreasing influence of the UK in Brussels. Due to increasing concerns inside the City, we decided to take a detailed look at the problem and design possible remedies.

What we have found is different from the clichés about lack of British leverage: we show in our report that Britain remains well-represented at the top echelons of the European Commission. (Of the 128 senior management and top cabinet positions, Germany held 20, the UK 13 and France 11 at the end of 2013.) This confirms the view that the UK has been and remains one of the most influential EU member states.

But there are two worrying tendencies that point to an impending cliff-edge for British influence – many of the highest-ranking British officials are near retirement age and there is no pipeline of junior colleagues ready to replace them.

Secondly, the proportion of British officials in the Commission is decreasing rapidly – from 9.6% in 2004 to 5.3% in 2014, compared to a UK population share of approximately 12%. And even these low numbers are concentrated in departments that are not policy focused (e.g. DG Communication). This leaves the percentage of British officials in departments that are crucial in drafting financial services legislation even lower (3.5% in DG MARKT).

Again, a silver lining here is the outstanding performance of UK universities in preparing mostly non-British people for EU careers. At AD7 level, 20% of successful applicants come from UK universities and the LSE alone produces a significant proportion of these. This provides a significant and untapped pool of officials who may not be British, but have intellectual and emotional ties to the UK.

To improve British staff level in the European Commission, the BBA is proposing a range of possible measures, including:

– Increasing the number of entrants to the European Fast Stream and providing for more and better preparation, in order to improve the number of UK nationals taking and passing the concours.

– Encouraging British civil servants to spend time in Brussels during their career, e.g. by requiring civil servants to undertake a secondment to EU institutions or UKREP

as a necessary condition for promotion to the senior civil service.

– Improving the application rate of British graduates for EU jobs by awareness raising at universities among students with adequate language skills.

– Increasing scholarship opportunities for British graduates at the College of Europe, which is the best preparation school for an EU job.

We acknowledge the efforts taken by the Government to improve the situation, but we think more should be done. In the coming months, the BBA will keep arguing for more efforts to increase British influence in Brussels.

Read the full report “British influence in the EU” here

This article was first published on the BBA website


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