Official Report (Hansard)

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Members present for all or part of the proceedings: 
Mr Danny Kennedy (Chairperson)
Mrs Naomi Long (Deputy Chairperson) 
Ms Martina Anderson
Mr Tom Elliott 
Mrs Dolores Kelly 
Mr Ian McCrea 
Mr Francie Molloy 
Mr Stephen Moutray 
Mr Jim Shannon 
Mr Jimmy Spratt

Witnesses:
Ms Bairbre de Brún MEP

The Chairperson (Mr Kennedy):

I welcome Bairbre de Brún MEP. Ms de Brún’s report on the evaluation of the Peace programme strategies for the future has been distributed to members.

The format that we use in Committee meetings is that we allow you to make a presentation, leaving time for questions. We hope that the session will last for no more than 45 minutes. The session is being recorded by Hansard to help the Committee to compile its report at a later stage.

Ms Bairbre de Brún MEP:

Thank you, Chairperson. I would like to extend my thanks to the Committee for inviting me here to speak with you today. As you will remember, the Committee originally invited me to give a presentation on 12 December 2008, but I was part of the European Parliament’s delegation at the United Nations conference on climate change in Poznań at that time. I am particularly grateful to the Committee for setting another date to allow me to come and talk to you.

I would like to look at the Assembly’s role in enhancing its engagement with EU issues under a number of general headings: EU programmes and funding, policy discussions, and EU structures, bodies and events. Some of those topics will overlap somewhat.

Regarding EU programmes and funding: the EU task force report lays out possibilities and opportunities in the time ahead. Each Assembly Committee should debate the relevant section of the task force report, and debate it with people in the community who are already engaged in work in those particular fields; such as the social partners, the voluntary and community sector, and statutory bodies. That would enable them to make recommendations about the kind of progress that they would like to see in a particular field on the recommendations of the task force, or to suggest any recommendations that they feel should have been there.

The more that the Committees and the Departments proactively engage in this debate, the clearer the specific demands that the Assembly has to make of the EU institutions will be. It will also make clearer the items on which people want to lobby or engage with other regions throughout the EU on that particular field. The field could be employment and learning, environment or agriculture and rural development, for example.

Each Department also has an official who is designated to deal with its counterpart in the European Commission on the task force. For each Committee, that official would be someone who could be invited to the relevant Committee to brief it on their views and to engage in that kind of discussion. The European Commission Office in Belfast is also part of that, and the head of the Office — previously Eddie McVeigh, now Maurice Maxwell — would be an obvious choice of person to add to such an engagement as well.

On another, similar item, Committees could engage with the section relevant to them regarding the European economic recovery plan that was announced in November. That will be part of the legislative programme in the time ahead.

Regarding policies, my understanding is that currently, the Assembly tends to engage mostly at the implementation stage. I understand that approximately 70% of Assembly legislation has its origins in EU legislation. The Commission sets out the legislative programme for the year ahead, and again, Assembly Committees could access this information and then prioritise the pieces that they want to look at. Probably of interest would not only be legislation coming before the European Parliament, but the very early stages of that. I will return to that point.

Departments here could also gain a lot of information and experience from secondments. We are very fortunate at the moment in that the Regional Policy Commissioner Danuta Hübner has seconded a member of the Northern Ireland Civil Service to work in her inner office, which is quite a coup for us.

Some Ministers and Departments engage in advance of the legislation being proposed. To give an example; I was a shadow rapporteur on the revision of the waste framework directive, which has now passed back to the Assembly for implementation. Prior to that coming before the European Parliament, the Department of the Environment brought civil servants and representatives of the waste management groups to meet with the Commission and MEPs, and to look at the policy formation stage to see what they could expect to be coming down the line at them.

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development also engages in discussions in Brussels on a regular basis. It has a designated official in the NI Executive Office in Brussels, who is very useful indeed. Michelle Gildernew has been a regular visitor to Brussels.

There have also been cross-departmental study groups and study visits. Officials from across the Departments have come out to see the working of the European institutions and have met with us. My view is, and I may be dealing with matters that you have already discussed, that a tailored visit for Committee staff would be very useful, and possibly a separate visit for MLAs. I think that the Committee staff would benefit from such a visit.

I mentioned earlier that it could be useful for the Assembly and the Executive to engage with EU institutions at an early stage of policy development, such as when a Green Paper is published. For example, a Green Paper consultation on territorial cohesion is just coming to an end, and the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) is actively interested in being involved in that and in inviting someone from the commission to come and talk to it. Another example in the upcoming 2009 legislative programme is the Green Paper on a review of the Common Fisheries Policy. Such engagement must take place long before the stage of formulating any legislative proposals, and that gives you a chance to be involved from the ground up, rather than deal with it only at the implementation stage.

There are many levels of formal and informal bodies that the Assembly could engage with regarding the new structures, bodies and events, and I would encourage such proactive engagement. Already, the Committee will have met with some of those bodies; for example, the European Commission, the European Parliament, the European Council, the European Economic and Social Committee, or the Committee of the Regions. Other regions have offices in Brussels, including the Länder — which are the federal states within Germany — Catalonia and the Basque country. From the South, the Irish Regions Office deals with a number of regions and acts as the secretariat for its Committee of the Regions representative.

It would be useful, I think, for the Assembly to look at how actively it wants to engage with the 2009 regional development Open Days event, in October, in Brussels. Open Days is an annual event where those different regional offices, and other local and regional groupings and authorities, come together to put on events, network and engage on chosen themes. This year, under the headline, ‘Global Challenges, European Solutions’, the seminars will cover themes relating to the regional responses to the economic crisis, climate change, territorial co-operation, and the impact and future of EU cohesion policy. I have to stress that beyond the Assembly putting on an event, Open Days is a hugely beneficial networking opportunity for people from here to see what is happening in other regions of Europe.

The Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, the Dáil, the House of Commons and the House of Lords, all have committees that scrutinise EU policy. Again, I know that the Committee has engaged with, or is planning to meet with, some of those institutions. The Assembly may wish to send representatives to events held by individual European Parliament committees.

The main thing, I feel, is for the Assembly to decide what level of priority it wishes to give to EU issues, in advance of having to implement directives. Or, for an individual Committee to decide what level of priority it wishes to give to that. First and foremost, the political will must be assessed, followed by the level of resources needed to carry that through. It must be decided what level of priority the Assembly wants to give to an ongoing and timely engagement with the range of EU institutions and bodies.

I am more than happy to meet with this, or any other, Assembly Committee, or to brief political groups within the Assembly on ongoing or forthcoming issues. In the past several years, I have worked on climate change, the environment, regional development, economic development, agriculture and rural development, and equality issues; however, I am more than happy to speak to the Assembly on any other issues.

The Chairperson:

Thank you very much. That was helpful. You outlined your knowledge of other regions and other areas. Are there any areas of good practice that we could examine and compare as regards a regional Assembly and the status that we have as part of the EU?

Ms de Brún:

The regions of Catalonia and the Basque country would be of interest to us in the way that they engage. As regards the German Länder, Bavaria is one of the most successful. However, its resources and powers are far beyond anything that we have. When the Assembly was set up for the first time, I went on a visit to the Bavarian office. Sometimes it is useful to visit less successful offices — in overall terms — that are closer to what we could manage to do. For example, the German federal structure is such that when we introduce legislation in the European Parliament, the Committee sometimes drafts wording for the competent authority, rather than simply the member states, because one of the German Länder might be the competent authority that would deal directly with the EU. Those would be the interesting offices, but for different reasons.

Some of the Scandinavian offices would also be interesting, as would the Irish Regions office, which has fewer powers than us, but is used as the secretariat for the Committee of the Regions and also facilitates fairly regular visits from some of the regions in the South of Ireland to Brussels.

The Chairperson:

In earlier sessions with what might be described as your MEP colleagues, they expressed some concern and criticism of the relationship between the local MEPs and the Northern Ireland Executive — not the Executive office in Brussels, but the Northern Ireland Executive. Do you have any views on that?

Ms de Brún:

The engagement with the Executive office in Brussels is excellent. The staff are very helpful and professional in the way that they carry out their work. They are members of the Civil Service and come under OFMDFM. If we are engaging with OFMDFM, we tend to do so — or I certainly tend to do so more frequently — with the office, because it is there and because we work so closely together. However, the MEPs and the rest of the Executive might want to have closer working relationships.

Mr Elliott:

You touched briefly on when a member state becomes involved in legislation. Is that before the legislative process or during the process? From my point of view, it is always too late if one becomes involved at the end of the process. How realistic is it to make an impact at an early stage? Normally, when we try to do anything about it, it is too late.

Ms de Brún:

It is very realistic, as long as the Committee or the Assembly here can decide what they want to prioritise. The amount of influence they wish to have may be small or large, depending in the particular proposal coming forward. For example, on one of the recent visits with civil servants from here, one of them was looking at advance discussion around the EU energy market and noticed one line would be detrimental in what they were trying to do here.

They were then going back to try to ensure that that line would be removed or changed in some way before it was included in actual legislation. I made it very clear that, if they had not managed that by the time it came before the European Parliament, then I would look out for that line, and ensure that the issue was tackled in the European Parliament. That is one example.

There are a number of upcoming issues on which we may wish to have some input; for example a communication on university business dialogue will be produced in 2009. Another communication on the future of transport will also be produced. Those are issues that are of interest to people here. Cutting accountancy burdens for small businesses is another such issue. When the Commission is formulating new ideas and policies, its officials are very open to hearing from national, regional and local bodies.

On some matters, our view may be that a lot of intervention is required; such as on the Green Paper on the reform of the common fisheries policy. That is an issue on which the Assembly Committee here could engage with the Ministers here, and in DEFRA.

Mr Elliott:

Is there any realisation in the European Parliament of how big an impact the decisions made there have on the member states — particularly on the agriculture industry, through environmental directives — or are they living in a wee box of their own over there?

Ms de Brún:

On the one hand, there is a realisation, and there is quite a lively debate. Things do change — quite considerably at times — between the initial proposals being made and the way those proposals end up being presented to the Parliament. One of the problems that I have found is that a lobbying industry has grown up in Brussels, which tends to cry foul automatically, as a negotiating position, every time a piece of legislation is produced. Because of that, when one brings up genuine concerns that have been expressed — for example, on the recent legislation on pesticides —fellow MEPs often assume that you are coming with another industry lobby for the sake of negotiating, and they do not take it as seriously as they might otherwise do. However, I still believe that is possible to make an impact, and important to try to do so.

Mr Shannon:

It is nice to see you here, Ms de Brún. There are a couple of questions that I have asked of the other MEPs, and it is only appropriate that I ask them of you as well, so that we will have the three answers on record. In the area that I represent— no doubt people will realise that I am being parochial again — fishing is a very important part of the lifestyle and of the economy. What is your relationship with the fishing organisations? Do they lobby you? Do you respond to that lobbying? Do you have early contact with them in relation to addressing the critical December meeting in Brussels? Is there a relationship on the issue of how you respond, and how the fishing organisations respond to you?

Ms de Brún:

First, my relationship with the fishing organisations has been good, and they have lobbied me. In recent times they have lobbied me far less since my party took over the Ministry — they now tend to go straight to the Minister rather than to me. They have good access, and they get good briefings about what is going on at the December meetings.

I have noticed that the fishing organisations do not feel that they need to come to me in the way that they did previously. Agriculture organisations still approach me about certain issues. The Committees of the European Parliament deal with a lot of business pertaining to them, so they come to lobby.

I imagine that the fishing organisations will approach me again when some of the work on the reform of the common fisheries policy goes through Parliament. Given that the Ministers in Council deal with the day-to-day work in relation to the fisheries policy and the December meetings, the fishing organisations tend to bypass me and go straight to them. However, I have had good working relationships with those organisations, and I have responded to them.

Mr Shannon:

On behalf of the fishing organisations, I have to say that they were much happier with the response that they got at the December meeting. Although, they were not completely happy with the end result, they were happier with the process of communication. Obviously, they view the quota restrictions as fairly draconian. Did you make it your business to attend the meeting in December?

Ms de Brún:

Yes, and I also get briefings from the Minister on the business that was discussed. However, I was unable to attend the December 2008 meeting or the Committee meeting here because I had to attend to other business for the European Parliament on those days.

Much of what happens on a yearly basis is bound up with the common fisheries policy. We could engage in discussions on the Green Paper on the reform of the common fisheries policy. The Assembly could usefully examine and engage on that also.

Mr Shannon:

Yesterday, the all-party Assembly group on rural sustainability held a meeting at which Roseanna Cunningham MSP was the guest. She said that Scotland was examining the ways in which it could improve its relationship with Europe, and she provided an outline of how she thought that that could happen. Scotland is clearly well ahead of us in the way in which it projects that. Following on from Mr Elliott’s question, how can we influence or be involved in legislative change coming from Europe? If one gets it too early, it will be vague, and if one gets it too late, it will be a fait accompli.

Obviously, a role exists somewhere in between those two, and we must ensure that we hit it. Is that your role with us, or do you think that each of the Departments here — whether that is six or 10 — should have a champion? Would that contact be beneficial? What would be the best method for the Assembly to respond? We must ensure that we can influence legislative change before it is too late and becomes a fait accompli.

Ms de Brún:

A number of interventions at different stages is probably the best method, particularly for an Assembly that has not engaged through the range of the process in the past. That could be done in variety of ways. The Commission, first of all, holds an open consultation at the Green Paper stage, so it would be worth the Assembly getting involved then. That, at least, would provide a framework for the later discussions. Sometimes, it is easy to immediately spot something, or sometimes, as Mr Shannon says, it is vague, but at least the basis for engagement at the later stage will have been formed.

The Department has engaged on the issue of agriculture for a long time, so that is reasonably straightforward. The Department has an official in the Office of the NI Executive in Brussels who is the point of contact. The MEPs engage. The farming organisations engage actively and have their own umbrella organisation for engagement. On other issues, it would be less straightforward. For example, we have just come out of a period of engagement with MEPs, the Office of the Executive in Brussels, the Commission, and the Parliament on the common agricultural policy (CAP) health check. That has laid down certain parameters that have been legislated for now. The rest will be taken forward in the next Parliament.

Therefore, it is important for the Committee or the Assembly to be able to engage with the farming organisations here and with MEPs and the Office of the Executive on what they consider to be the next stage — to be ready to discuss that and to bring forward their views. To tie that in with Tom Elliott’s previous question; for example, with regard to eels, the Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative Society was strongly engaged with simply telling the European Commission about how it works, what it has done, how it meets, what the Commission was trying to achieve, and about how some of its proposals would impact on the society’s ability to meet its objectives. Often, it is simply a case of being engaged in that way. Although that had impact, it was, possibly, not as much as the society would have liked.

It is possible through MEPs. I was able to give reports to Joe Borg at the Commission. I was able to raise questions in the European Parliament, to talk to people in the Departments here and directly to people in the Commission. That must be ongoing at various stages of the proposal so that you are in a position to do more than shift commas and full stops at a late stage.

Ms Anderson:

Thank you very much, Bairbre. It is nice to see you here.

You mentioned the European economic recovery plan, of which I have heard only recently. I do not know much about it. You said that it was launched in November 2008. Some of the groups and organisations that I deal with in Derry tell me about the difficulties and problems that they have in securing matched funding — which, I am sure, is the same for all Members when they deal with Departments. I have been told that there may be a mechanism under the European economic recovery plan by which those groups could go back to Departments and engage with them on that matter. I want to hear more about that. Is there a relationship between that and the open day that you mentioned, which will deal with regional responses to the economic crisis? It may be worth delving into what that open day will involve in order to provide members with a better understanding. They might want to consider it.

As regards cutting accountancy business for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), I had a meeting yesterday with Central Procurement Directorate to discuss SMEs and the social economy in Derry, and their difficulty in getting access to the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) for big procurement contracts. It explained how SMEs could be facilitated to develop that kind of understanding. I am sure that SMEs here would greatly appreciate that assistance in cutting down accountancy business.

The Chairman will probably tell me to stop. However, if he allows, I want to ask a third question.

The Chairperson:

Other members have indicated that they want to ask questions.

Ms Anderson:

In that case, those two questions will do. I will have an opportunity to talk to Bairbre later.

Mr Shannon:

Surely, you can talk to her directly by phone.

Ms Anderson:

Well, this is it. Behave yourself.

The Chairperson:

Let us just keep the discussion moving.

Ms de Brún:

The recovery plan is based on two key elements. The first is short-term measures to boost demand, save jobs and help restore confidence. The second is smart investment to yield higher growth and sustainable prosperity in the long term. Under smart investment, the recovery plan wants, for example, to provide further help for all SMEs, which includes removing the requirement on micro-enterprises for annual accounts and easing access to public-procurement. In that regard, I suggest that SMEs could and should address their needs, as you have mentioned.

Another recommendation is that steps should be taken to ensure that public authorities pay invoices within one month. Those are some of the points of the recovery plan that would build on the benefits of the Small Business Act for Europe.

For some time now I have been pushing for investment in energy-efficiency infrastructure in order to help sustain employment in the construction industry, save energy, improve efficiency and help to tackle fuel poverty. On the subject of protecting and creating jobs, I return to your previous question. The European Commission is going to propose that the criteria for applications to the European social fund support programme should be simplified and that advance payments should be stepped up from early 2009 so that member states have earlier access to up to €1·8 billion. The Commission wishes to refocus support on the most vulnerable, step up action to boost skills, and, where necessary, opt for full EC financing of projects during this period. The EU wishes to address those questions by looking at matched funding and access to other funding.

It is important to understand that although there is a particular difficulty in getting access to finance from banks, the Commission points out in the European economic recovery plan that it expects the European Investment Bank to continue lending. That is important for people to know. The annexes to volume 2 of the Commission’s legislative and work programme show the number of different pieces of legislative and non-legislative initiatives and communications that are scheduled to progress through it. One of those items deals with the economic recovery plan; another item deals specifically with cutting administrative burdens for small businesses.

Mrs Long:

Thank you for the presentation; I apologise for arriving late. You mentioned your work on climate change and your willingness to brief Assembly Members. I was thinking that I should put you in touch with the Minister of the Environment.

A Member:

You will be wasting your time.

Mrs Long:

Are there formal opportunities for you to share information with the Assembly about your work and about what is coming up in European legislation, development and work programmes?

Ms de Brún:

I would welcome formal opportunities. I welcomed the opportunity to talk to the Committee today. I was happy to meet some members of the Committee during their visit to Brussels, and I would like to be able to do so with other Committees and groupings in the Assembly. I work informally by way of meetings with civil servants, environmental groups and other groups that are part of the Climate Change Coalition, to which I give regular briefings. We have had several debates and discussions about what is happening in tackling climate change at international level. We have talked about the United Nations climate change conference and the road to Copenhagen and the need to find an international agreement on how to tackle climate change in future.

On wider environmental issues, I met waste management groups with whom I discussed the environmental legislation on the revision of the waste framework directive. I met economic development groups in the north and north-west to discuss cross-border co-operation and how that could be used to tackle particular geographic challenges here in the North. I was happy when I was able to persuade the influential Regional Development Committee of the European Parliament to visit the north and north-west to see that work.

Mostly, groupings approach me, or I approach them, outside the Assembly. That was the same with respect to the Peace report, when I engaged with the voluntary and community sector that had been so vital in doing that work. That was on my initiative. Sometimes, I meet with individual Assembly Members or civil servants on other occasions and at other events — for example, in the Long Gallery — as opposed to having a set time when I can brief Committees. I would find it valuable to build on that.

Mrs Long:

We are examining options for more formal engagement and whether that would be beneficial. One of the questions that we have asked MEPs is whether they would welcome the development of procedures that would allow them to brief Committees on a more regular basis. One suggestion is that MEPs might brief this Committee, for example, to coincide with the European Commission’s legislative and work programme. Another option that we are considering is that MEPs would be brought in for consultation with this Committee and others when they deal with European issues. Alternatively, MEPs might be given the right to participate around the table in some of the discussions while such issues are dealt with in Committee, although they would not have voting rights on the issue, of course. Would such developments be helpful in formalising those discussions?

Ms de Brún:

Yes, absolutely. At present, when I am at home, I come here on Mondays to meet with my party Assembly group in order to keep up to date with what is happening, and I meet with ministerial colleagues. I have made it clear that I am also happy to meet with other party groupings. I would particularly welcome a more formal approach that allowed me to attend Committees and participate in them.

It is ironic that I am invited to, and have the right to attend, Committees in the Dáil. I attend Committees in Leinster House, though I do not have voting rights there either. European issues are often dealt with on a cross-border basis, so it is interesting for me to do that. I would especially welcome the opportunity to meet with Committees here.

Mrs D Kelly:

I welcome Bairbre to the Committee. In your reports, you refer to the Hamber and Kelly work on Peace III and how groups need to be up to speed on that work in order to take a more strategic direction. I am not familiar with that work. How do we inform society to adopt a position from which it may benefit from Peace III?

The media give little attention to European issues, except when the fishing or farming industries are affected. How can that be improved?

What is the current status of Peace III? Where is the hold-up? It is supposed to last from 2007 to 2013: we are now in 2009, and I wonder what is going on.

Ms de Brún:

It is interesting that the European Union shows a lot of goodwill towards developments here at the moment. It is proud of the input it gave. That came through clearly, not only in the extensions of the Peace programme, but in the overwhelming support that the de Brún report, ‘The Evaluation of the Peace Programme and Strategies for the Future’ received when I brought it forward in the European Parliament, and in the reaction of the European Economic and Social Committee when Jane Morrice made her report to that body.

The Assembly should use those reports as a basis for discussions and to engage with people who have been part of the Peace programmes here. Those people have gained valuable experience of Peace III, and they could provide useful advice for the future.

As part of the Committee Stage for my report, the European Parliament held a hearing, or information session, to which it invited Pat Colgan from the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), the Community Relations Council and a representative from one of the grass-roots projects — the cross-cultural co-operation project between Ballymacarret and Ballybofey — that did sterling work on the ground.

At the hearing, the work of Kelly and Hamber was discussed. They envisage peace building and reconciliation as a long-term process that goes far beyond community relations and into considerations of economic and structural changes, cultural questions and how people see and define their futures.

With regard to the situation concerning Peace III, I see a problem with the delay between measures passing through the European institutions and the debate taking place at the implementation stage. Often, people do not realise that something is an EU issue until it has passed through its institutions and is firmly in the local arena. Therefore, when groups come to me with queries — and there are many queries concerning Peace III, its implementation, whether community organisations’ roles are recognised, and whether those organisations can have the same level of input that they had to Peace I and Peace II — they may discover that the decision they are seeking lies with the Assembly, the Executive or local government, rather than with the EU institutions. In fact, much of the Peace programme is implemented at local government level.

Nevertheless, it is important that groups are aware that the EU Commission will be involved in a mid-term review of the Peace programme. Therefore groups will be able to go to SEUPB, the Department of Finance and Personnel, the Committee for Finance and Personnel, or directly to the EU Commission in order to inform the review about their experiences.

Mr Molloy:

Mr Chairman, I apologise to the Committee and to Bairbre for being late; I was held up at a meeting with the Speaker.

We have been asking MEPs about the role that the Assembly can play in, and how it might develop a better working relationship with the European Union. As Tom Elliott said, although we often hear about European directives, it is the Governments that make up the European Union that create those directives. Given that situation, how much influence can we have?

Moreover, would secondments from the Assembly be a more effective way for the Assembly to develop a better relationship with the European Union than making direct contact through an Assembly office in Europe and having MEPs address Assembly Committees?

Ms de Brún:

My view is that Assembly engagement must reach a much higher level before the Assembly would require, or benefit from, a separate office of its own. Committees can engage directly with the task force report that came out in April 2008. That report is public and contains several recommendations. If Committees have not directly engaged with people outside of the Assembly to discuss those recommendations, they would gain little from having an office in Brussels. I do not know if I am making myself clear.

This Committee is different because it oversees the work of OFMDFM. This Committee, therefore, may want to consider the response to the task force report and the work of the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister in dealing with it. However, there is no reason for other Committees — which deal with economic development, culture, the environment, and so on —to have an office if they are not already engaging with the recommendations on EU issues. It is too early for a Committee to benefit from having an office in Brussels if it is not already engaging with organisations that deal with EU issues on a day-to-day basis.

An office allows a message to be put across and provides a structured way of engaging with people throughout the European Union. However, a Committee must first decide how much it wants to have those conversations: what priority such engagement has in its work programme and what level of resources can be given to it. When those questions have been answered, a Committee can then decide whether it wants to have an office in Brussels to deal with EU issues.

The European Union is very complex precisely because it is not solely the Commission, or the Parliament, or the Governments that make the decisions. They do not always make the decisions in the same mix, but they all take part in the decision-making process. Scotland, for example, has a long history of much higher levels of direct engagement than we have. However, the Scottish Parliament’s office in Brussels was established only quite recently. Furthermore, it is still unclear how much added value that office provides over and above the work of Scottish Government EU Office or the Scotland Europa office, which deals with other Scottish organisations that interact with the European Union.

The Chairperson:

Thank you very much your presentation. You may contact us with any other information that you wish to provide and, similarly, we will contact you if we have any further queries. We will publish a report at some stage and ensure that you get a copy of it. Thank you very much indeed.

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