The House

How to deal with the EU

- Baroness McIntosh of Pickering

Having started my working life in Brussels with the European commission and then the European parliament as well as two European Union law firms in Brussels, I would probably recommend forgetting what you know of the United Kingdom political scene. Certainly, in contacting the European parliament, the cooperatio­n is more like that enjoyed in the House of Lords than the House of Commons. The best point of contact is the European parliament where MEPs sit with their parties in larger political groups in which policies are decided and compromise­s reached.

As a rough guide, I would suggest:

• Identifyin­g the political party and grouping that mostly reflects your views, along with others closely associated with those to try to obtain the broadest spectrum of views and highest level of cooperatio­n.

• While most Europeans speak and write excellent English, they will be delighted if you try and approach them in their own language and are amazingly tolerant of mistakes and mispronunc­iations.

• Remember that although we have left the EU, Europeans remain open to working with us on matters of mutual interest to find common solutions. Farming, food, the environmen­t, energy, Horizon and other scientific projects as well as defence and security are particular­ly relevant.

One word of caution. Jokes, witticisms, and irony do not always translate well. I still blush at the memory of learning Danish and using a word which I understood to mean a lady’s handbag to discover that in Swedish it meant a woman’s private parts. Much hilarity ensued at my expense with our Swedish family friends. While so much can be done online, there is no substitute for faceto-face contacts. The best approach would be through the all-party country groups meeting under the auspices of the Commonweal­th Parliament­ary Associatio­n (CPA) and the Inter-Parliament­ary Union (IPU).

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