UKREP is the acronym for the United Kingdom Permanent Representation to the European Union. Each of the member states maintains a permanent representation – or de facto national embassy – in Brussels to manage its dealings with the various Union institutions, most especially its direct involvement in the legislative process through the Council of Ministers. With about 100 policy experts (and around 170 staff in all), UKREP is one of the largest of the permanent representations and was for many years was widely considered to be the most professional. It is divided into eight sections. All officials dealing with institutional and foreign policy issues normally come from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), including the permanent representative (ambassador) and now the separate representative to the Council’s Political and Security Committee. The deputy permanent representative and most of the officials dealing with technical matters – such as transport, energy, employment, environment or home affairs – are seconded from other Whitehall departments. It is usual for the officials dealing with financial and agricultural matters to be on loan from the Treasury and DEFRA respectively. However, all UKREP officials, regardless of their department of origin, are formally responsible to the FCO in London.
UKREP officials spend a large amount of time in meetings of COREPER, the Committee of Permanent Representatives, and the many working groups within the Council structure. The outcome of every meeting is relayed back to London through a ‘reporting telegramme’, together with news of the European Commission initiatives, developments in the European Parliament and other events of potential significance at EU level. These reports are widely circulated in Whitehall and form the basis of the government’s collective intelligence on European affairs. With the growing power of the Parliament in the legislative process, increasing resources are being devoted by all permanent representations, including UKREP, to in effect lobbying members of that institution – a role that does not always come easily to civil servants trained in the traditions of administrative hierarchy and executive-to-executive relations. UKREP organises the visits of ministers and senior officials from London to the EU institutions, monitors the position and interests of British officials in those institutions, and oversees the three representative offices of the devolved executives in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Copyright: Anthony Teasdale, 2012
Citation: The Penguin Companion to European Union (2012), additional website entry