Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
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The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

Dominic Grieve: The Legal Profession’s Cheerleader


It often thought that lobbying, the professional representation of private interests to governments and subsequent attempts to influence policy, was confined to industrial-like political powerhouses of Washington D.C., the capital of the free world, and Brussels, the de facto capital of the European Union. In the US, the currency within lobbying is of course, money. An instance of this in action, as one example, is the fact that the six largest banks in America hired more than 240 former US Government officials to lobby on their behalf after the financial crisis. Another is that prior to the 2016 Presidential election, US financial institutions spent more than $2bn on lobbying various presidential campaigns.

In Brussels, however, the game is quite different. It isn't money that gives you a meal ticket – it's knowledge. In its relative youth, the EU lacks a professional civil service or significant tried and tested mechanism of developing policy, and so relies on external bodies to aid it in this. The EU has plenty of money, but it does not have many homegrown experts. The policy papers of groups like BusinessEurope, which represents multiple Europe-wide businesses including the CBI, can often be traceable within official EU policy positions.

The active and extensive lobbying hubs in both capitals exist because great change is driven from such places. Brexit, a dramatic geopolitical pivot with massive known and unknown ramifications, means that London joins Washington and Brussels as a driver of regional, even global change on a seismic level. And so, lobbyists of all manner wish to influence such a movement.

EU lobby groups in particular are no exception. There have been various reports that multiple Brussels based institutions have been keenly targeting Conservative MPs within the House of Commons, of the 60 plus age group, who have been previously held ministerial briefs. But why? Well, lobbyists know that former Ministers such as Philip Hammond, David Gauke, Dominic Grieve and David Liddington have no desire to serve as backbench MPs and so will potentially stand down at the next General Election.This means the loyalty which these MPs once owed the Conservative Party no longer exists, particularly since all but Liddington have lost the Conservative Whip.

Instead, these MPs are now, whether they consciously realise it or not, rebranding themselves as political and constitutional experts with the potential to provide invaluable insight and knowledge to big City players like Citibank, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Those banks made substantial contributions to the Remain campaign and would prefer the UK to remain within the EU, MPs like Hammond and Gauke will actively seek a leading role in delaying, or even blocking Brexit, and this will, should they so desire, win them favour and help lay the foundations for their post-parliamentary careers.

If Philip Hammond and other former Conservative Ministers are able to prevent the UK from leaving the EU without a deal, the likelihood of the UK eventually succumbing to a second referendum, with an option to remain in the EU, is more likely. Producing such an outcome would allow them to command a remarkably impressive fee.

We can only speculate the conversations between Philip Hammond, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, early this year with David Solomon, the CEO Goldman Sachs at the firm's 150th anniversary event. Irrespective, nobody ought to be surprised if one or more of the MPs find themselves in a five-hour a month, lucrative contract with a top City firm.

So, the creeping of interests of MPs in securing their post-parliamentary careers, intertwined with City interests as the UK departs the EU is clear. But this piece believes an even bigger threat exists: the litigious interests of the legal profession and remain supporting MPs, formally lawyers themselves.

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC once remarked that "most lawyers are Remainers", with 75% of those working in the legal profession estimated to have voted to remain in the European Union. It could be said that the fantastically public legal battles against Brexit by the likes of Gina Miller and Marcus Ball, and from within Parliament by MPs like Dominic Grieve and Joanna Cherry QC, support this assertion.

In an article by The Guardian's Zoe Williams, Baroness Kennedy Q.C. said the legal profession is not impartial on the subject of Brexit, they are almost exclusively EU Remainers, "most lawyers are Remainers, but a very few Brexiters – I could count them on three fingers..." Given that the Judiciary comprises former members of the legal profession, it is legitimate to ask whether they will be able to suppress their pro Remain prejudices when adjudicating a case related to Brexit.

The legal profession is overwhelmingly in favour of EU membership because it benefits enormously from the extra scope of work that the EU provides, from commission directives right down to legislation from the EU parliament. The more rules and regulations the EU produces, the better it is for those within the legal profession. Brexit threatens business, as it removes potentially this extra sphere of law from the scope of the British legal profession.

It would be wrong, however, to conclude that what is good for the legal profession is good for UK society. Lawyers are not governed by the national interest; they are governed by the interest of their clients and their own belief in how the law should operate.Take one example; as the UK is a member of the EU, large multi-national companies can use lawyers to retrospectively challenge the tax laws enacted by the British Parliament under EU law.This form of litigation provides law firms with a valuable source of income, but it does not benefit our society: in fact, it undermines British sovereignty and coerces the UK Government retrospectively repay billions in taxes.

At this very moment, constitutional lawyers spread across our society, in our leading universities all the way to our top law firms, are at speed attempting to thwart Brexit with grandstands like Judicial Review, all the way to largely unknown archaic mechanisms. Inside of the legislature itself, Dominic Grieve has advertised himself as the "mouthpiece" for the lawyer lobby. A marriage of convenience, with Grieve the partner who covets the publicity, and the lawyers, who work fastidiously but with great anonymity.Everyone should know what is really happening: lawyers are using the legal system for their own benefit.

But these efforts do not mean our cause is cornered, far from it. Instead, if we work to expose the anti-democratic, self-interested behaviour of the lawyer lobby, then we can further clear the path for a successful transition out of the European Union. Of course, most members like Grieve and Gauke hail from some sort of background which inspires their political behaviour. Ken Clarke, another Tory rebel who has unceremoniously found himself expelled from the party after a forty-year career, was beforehand Deputy Chairman and a Director at British American Tobacco. He also held a similar role at Alliance Unichem. Because of the Conservative Party's close association with business, it isn't entirely unnatural for a politician like Clarke to have later joined Parliament as a Conservative MP. Yet, despite his considerable expertise, Clarke has been consistent in echoing business calls to join the Euro, and business calls to refrain from European Union withdrawal.

Former lawyers like Grieve, and other rebels like Hammond and Gauke, sit in the same basket. Experienced politicians, but whose valuable former experiences have sabotaged their political instincts against the largest democratic mandate in Britain's history. Undoubtedly, such politicians will continue their efforts to stop Brexit, whether that be from an office in the palatial clutters of glass towers in the City, or from the comfort of retirement. 

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