As I student, I once had a summer job helping organise a trip to Brussels for a group of businessmen and women. Going from one meeting to the next, I learnt a lot. Perhaps the most striking lesson was what I discovered about many of the supposed businessmen and women I was with.
I had expected them to be entrepreneurs and wealth creators. In fact, I don't think I met what most people would regard as a real businessman or woman during the entire trip. Most were corporate lobbyist. Rather than send the head of marketing and sales, or the head of product design, the firms taking part had sent along their public affairs people.
I have nothing against corporate lobbyists. But as I watched them schmooze and network in Brussels, I did wonder in what sense they represented UK industry.
Lobbyists are paid to influence. With so many rules and regulations emanating from Brussels, businesses often find that there is much that needs influencing. The Eurosystem creates a great deal of work for corporate lobbyists, and many of them – unsurprisingly - rather like it. The more single market rules to be drawn up, and the more regulations, permissions and exemptions required, the more their services are needed.
As an EU referendum draws closer, we will be invited to listen to "the voice of business". But will it be the voice of those who design, produce and sell products, and produce wealth as they do so? Or will it be the voice of those paid to lobby in Brussels?
The lobbying industry might not want a looser relationship with Brussels. That does not mean that industry doesn't.blog comments powered by Disqus
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