None. There is no regulation requiring former MEPs to seek authorisation for their subsequent activities.
Brian Simpson was first elected to the European Parliament in 1989 and served until 2004. In 2006 he was re-elected and kept his seat until stepping down in 2014. Simpson is well known for his work on transport issues. Before becoming an MEP he served as deputy chair of the Liverpool Airport and, between 2004 and 2006, he was a member of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport and director of the North West Rail Campaign. As an MEP, he was one the longest serving member of the parliament's committee on transport and tourism (TRAN). He chaired this committee throughout his last mandate.
As rapporteur he produced a total of 13 reports for TRAN on very diverse topics, from aviation, railways and sea travel to passengers rights. He was responsible for producing the report 'on international air agreements under the Treaty of Lisbon' which established a set of principles that allow the European Parliament to assess any ongoing negotiation concerning air agreements. He was also the rapporteur for the recast report “on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on Community guidelines for the development of the trans-European transport network”, also known as TEN-T networks. Simpson was voted twice as the best Transport MEP: first in 2010 and then in 2012.
Motorways of the Sea
Simpson's transport expertise led to his appointment in March 2014 as European coordinator of the Commission's project, Motorways of the Sea (MoS). According to the Commission decision 12 March 2014 , this project is the maritime counterpart of the new TEN-T networks and it “will be the tool to integrate the key elements of the EU's maritime policy and Europe's vital export and import gates in the European transport infrastructure.”
Simpson's role as a coordinator is to advance “the overall development and implementation of the project at European level through targeted coordination activities”. The decision stresses that this is to be done particularly “in relation to project investment (synchronisation of works, allocation of national and European funding) and, as appropriate, other specific action to promote a competitive and resource efficient transport system.”
A few months after being appointed, Simpson commented that MoS “is not Commission led, it's industry led” clarifying that the Commission's role is to help by providing part of the funding. At a later date the former MEP stressed the value of possible Commission funding saying that “within MoS, we have just under €1bn to spend over the next three years on port, maritime and hinterland investment – it isn’t chicken feed,” he says.
The MoS coordinator is an unpaid position but he is entitled to a flat-rate monthly allowance of €3000 to cover secretarial expenses and could be further reimbursed for expenses. The set of rules and procedures for all TEN-T coordinators coordinators say that:
“You must avoid any situation giving rise to a conflict of interest regarding areas in which you are requested to intervene. You must inform the Commission of any conflict of interest arising during your term of office immediately.”
Last July, and shortly after he stepped down as an MEP, Hume Brophy, an “international communications firm specialising in Public Relations, Investor Relations, Public Affairs, Corporate and Financial Communications”, announced that Simpson was to join its team in Brussels. According to the firm's press release, Simpson will work as senior consultant and focus on “advising our [Hume Brophy] clients on EU and international legislation and policy development.”
Hume Brophy works in several sectors including Aerospace & Transport and Large infrastructure projects. It is interesting to note that the lobbying consultancy advertises its services on the latter saying that:
“Our integrated approach is based on an understanding and experience with approval processes around large infrastructure projects and programs coupled Hume Brophy’s expertise in communications and public relations.”
Hume Brophy's lobby register entry discloses that, from September 2013 to August 2014, it spent between €1,750,000-€1,999,999 in EU lobbying, with an annual lobby revenue of more than one million. Its client list is diverse but it includes several actors interested in transport issues, including the European Travel Retail Council (ETRC), its biggest client providing them a lobby turnover between €300,000 - €399,999; and the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) bringing in between €50,000 - €99,999. On a lower income bracket, it has been contracted by the Belfast International Airport, which could benefit from a possible network extension being discussed under the TEN-T project.
According to the Integritywatch.eu database (checked 07 July 2015), since December 2014, Hume Brophy has had two meetings with senior Commission officials, one of them with DG Agriculture cabinet members to discuss aviation specifically. Unfortunately, the Commission's disclosure requirements do not allow for the publication of the identity of the lobbyist attending the meetings.
In a press release announcing Simpson's recruitment, Hume commented that:
“We at Hume Brophy are delighted to welcome Brian Simpson to our team as a Senior Consultant. Brian is a household name in the transport sector and brings 20 years of experience on policy development in this area. We are confident that our clients will immediately benefit from his unique insight and knowledge.”
Simpson responded to the appointment saying:
“I am delighted to be joining Hume Brophy, Europe’s foremost public affairs firm. I continually hear of the good work and high quality of service provided by Hume Brophy and look forward to being part of that team.”
As CEO has previously reported, Simpson's recruitment by Hume Brophy follows that of former MEPs Gary Titley and George Lyon. Now, this team has been enhanced by the addition of former MEP Olle Schmidt . Together they form what the lobbying firm has called its “parliamentary team”. John Hume, founding partner of Hume Brophy, announced this new team saying that:
“Our team of full time consultants have strong institutional links and experience across Brussels and member states. They are also able to draw on our teams in London, Dublin, Paris and Singapore, but nothing can substitute actual parliamentary experience to guide our partners though the often difficult challenges of seeking support from the European Parliament.”
Thus far (23 July), Simpson has not been accredited as a European Parliament lobbyist. CEO has contacted Simpson prior to publishing this article but he did not reply to our questions
“Simpson's new job as a lobbyist raises serious concerns about a possible conflict of interest, especially considering his ongoing work with the European Commission's Motorways of the Sea project.
In CEO's view, this is also a clear example of a private consultancy firm taking advantage of the revolving door to get insider know-how. This is made very clear by Hume Brophy's comments on its “parliamentary team”.
This case reinforces the argument for a stronger MEP code of conduct which includes a two-year ban on MEPs becoming lobbyists after leaving office.”