Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation’s UK Branch Appoints Cavendish Advocacy

Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation’s UK Branch Appoints Cavendish Advocacy

We are pleased to share that Cavendish Advocacy have been appointed as public affairs adviser to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation’s UK Branch, following a competitive pitch.

The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation is an international foundation that has been making profound contributions to the arts, education, science, and social welfare for 65 years. Building on its unwavering commitment to tackling complex global problems, the Foundation’s UK Branch is leading a Citizen Engagement on Climate strand that will help build and evidence the public mandate to tackle climate change.

Their climate change efforts come at a critical time as the UK prepares for COP26 and works to be a global green leader as it builds back better. Cavendish Advocacy is thrilled to utilise our extensive experience in climate change and sustainability to help the Foundation drive social change.

Andrew Barnett OBE, Director of the UK Branch of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, said:

“The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation has an immense history of championing some of the most pressing challenges facing society. The UK Branch’s focus on climate change builds on what we have accomplished and learned through our work on ocean conservation, and will demonstrate the value of public engagement in creating conditions for meaningful change.”

For nearly 20 years, Cavendish Advocacy has been helping clients with their political and corporate communications, both nationally and locally. The green economy and climate change have been key areas of growth for us, and will continue to be through 2021. We combine insight with influence and utilize digital and creative teams to clearly and powerfully land clients’ stories with target audiences, ensuring clients’ ideas change minds when it matters most.

In the past year, Cavendish Advocacy’s client teams have secured prestigious industry awards including the PRCA Public Affairs Awards’ Trade Body Campaign of the Year and ICCO’s Crisis & Issues Management Award.

If you would like to discuss this further, then please do not hesitate to get in contact with James Bird here, who will be the lead consultant on the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation account.

A Deal Is Done

A Deal Is Done

Nine months of negotiations are done – the EU and UK have (provisionally) agreed a new trade deal.

The twists and turns of the negotiations that have played out over nine months reached the point this week where negotiating teams had to step aside and let those with a political mandate take over. The past 72 hours have seen the UK Prime Minister and EU Commission President negotiating directly. A final call was conducted at 7am this morning and negotiations are now complete.

Those that have been following the negotiations closely have been acutely aware that all dates for progress have been fluid and seemingly set-in-stone deadlines have been regularly cast aside. Observers have seen briefings that one moment exude confidence that progress was being made, swiftly followed by pessimistic assessments that a No Deal scenario was instead likely. The substance of negotiations versus the choreography necessary to placate domestic audiences has often been hard to distinguish.

However, in the past week it has been clear that we were at the end game where a path to a deal was there, if the necessary compromises could be made.

The top tier negotiating positions have been relatively clear from the start. The UK framed their demands as seeking a Canada-style deal that reflected the desire for “sovereignty” with no jurisdiction from the European Court of Justice. The EU needed a deal that had to be underpinned by fair competition and protected the Single Market, was enforceable in European Courts and could not be as advantageous as membership of the EU. The UK Government consistently claimed it would walk away if required and the EU and its members often said that the UK had more to lose and must be the ones to compromise.

It is doubtful whether any other trade negotiation of this scale has taken place over such a condensed time and with the backdrop provided by 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic, global recession and US Presidential election all contributed to the respective positions throughout and we have also seen flare-ups driven by domestic politics, most notably the UK Internal Markets Bill that threatened to tear up the Withdrawal Agreement signed up to only a year before.

But for all the grand sweep of global politics the consistent tripping points were fisheries, level playing field provisions and dispute resolution. Their discussions have been highly technical where the emphasis has been on finding mechanisms that allow both sides to feel that their priorities are being addressed.

Highly technical they may have been, but they were also, inevitably, highly political. Fisheries in particular has been the example of how a small sector on paper (the EU catch from UK waters is only around £650m) has almost derailed discussions. For the UK it has been a symbolic and easily understandable issue, dating back to the 1970s and with fishing communities in politically important regions (the Red Wall and Scottish marginals). For the EU it has been symbolic too with their fleets set to lose access to historic fishing grounds and angering a well organised and powerful industrial lobby. Indeed, a great deal of the focus of the calls between Johnson and Von der Leyen has been haggling over proportions of catch for specific fish species – a remarkable, granular subplot to this process.

The deal is many thousands of pages long and will be pored over by trade experts from here on in, but key features briefed so far are:

1. Trade in Goods – tariff and quota-free trade in goods between the EU and UK has been preserved. “Wins” being briefed are the EU’s decision to grant third country listing status to the UK and approve exports of meat, dairy and other products of animal origin, plus electric vehicles will be traded tariff-free even if a relatively high proportion of their components come from outside the EU and UK (critical news for the continued presence of Nissan and Toyota in the UK).

2. Level Playing Field – much of the concern had been around fears on the EU side that the UK would have access to their market but could diverge on workers’ rights, environmental standards and state aid that would put its industry at a disadvantage. Progress was made when the UK published its state aid principles and now the deal includes a mechanism for “managed divergence” between the UK and EU, where an independent arbitration system would determine whether divergence bestowed an advantage, which would then trigger retaliatory action in the form of tariffs. In a sign of how this deal will be spun, the UK Govt is already dubbing this the “freedom clause”.

3. Fisheries – the last major sticking point (where a lot of the “betrayal” rhetoric will inevitably be focused) where even last night negotiations on specific fish species were still taking place. The UK originally wanted 80% of the EU’s catch from UK waters returned, a three-year transition period and restricted access to the coastal zone of UK waters (up to 12 miles). The EU only wished to concede 18% and wanted up to a decade long transition. We have ended up with 25% (although British officials are spinning this as Britain’s share of catch in its waters going from half to two thirds) and a 5.5-year transition. Access after that will depend on regular negotiations.

4. Energy Market Access – the cross-border energy market has been preserved. This is literally a case of “keeping the lights on” with imports through those connections vital for the UK during the 2018 ‘Beast from the East’ freeze, our exports to France and Belgium helping them weather the precautionary closure of French nuclear stations two years earlier and Ireland’s route through the UK being their only route to trade with the rest of the EU.

5. No Trade in Services – this is referred to as a “thin deal” as it covers only goods (where the EU has a surplus) and not the services sector that makes up 80% of the UK economy. Of particular importance will be financial services and there is pressure for swift progress towards a separate “equivalence agreement” that will grant UK firms access to EU markets and customers (the UK has unilaterally committed to doing so for EU firms).

Next Steps

The focus now switches to how this deal is applied and the role of the respective Parliaments that have to ratify the deal.

The deadlines that would have allowed the European Parliament to ratify the deal have passed and the emphasis in recent weeks has been on how to adapt to ensure there is no accidental No Deal period between the end of transition and formal ratification.

We expect to see the following:

UK Process – a relatively straight forward process in the UK Parliament will see MPs called back from recess between Christmas and New Year (most likely December 30th) for a straight up vote to accept or reject the deal.

EU Member States – a flexible arrangement to avoid an interregnum No Deal period will be focused on delivering a “Provisional Application” from January 1st. Member State Ambassadors will be briefed this morning and then a process of sending letters to the Commission accepting provisional application will take place.

EU Parliament – The EU Parliament’s ratification process usually involves scrutiny and debate in committees and in plenaries that can take a number of weeks. The provisional application route is ripping up norms (it usually takes place after the EU Parliament has voted and is only used while national/regional parliaments go through their processes) and takes some of the cliff edge tension out of this process. It is likely that the EP will look at the deal during their January or February plenaries.

Beyond the formal processes this deal needs to be communicated to domestic audiences – a consideration that has been there on both sides during negotiations. The UK Government, EU institutions and Member States all have their own political pressures to contend with and need the deal to be seen as a “win” for them and their agenda (Johnson held a Cabinet call last night where he sought their help to sell the deal to colleagues and there have been cries of betrayal already from more hardcore elements).

All sides will draw breath over the next few days but attention then turns beyond ratification to implementation – particularly the changes at the border from January 1st. This deal softens the edges of Brexit but for business it will mean border checks and paperwork which they haven’t had to deal with for almost fifty years. As we have seen in the past few days and weeks disruption at ports can escalate quickly and business groups are already lobbying for sensible grace periods to allow adaptation for the re-labelling of products and phasing in of border checks.


But for all the above – the timetable, the scale of the challenge, the politics and the backdrop – the negotiators have delivered a deal. Challenges lay ahead but this is a historic juncture and the start of a new relationship with the European Union.

You can find out more about what this deal means by attending the Cavendish Advocacy EU-UK Trade Deal webinar on Thursday 7th January (11am to Noon) with guest speakers which include the Federation of Small Businesses, Rt Hon Damian Green MP (former First Secretary of State) & Miller Meier, our EU partner. Details for registration can be found here.

BECG Group UK Consultancy of the Year at the PRCA Public Affairs Awards

BECG Group UK Consultancy of the Year at the PRCA Public Affairs Awards

During a year unlike any other, Cavendish Advocacy’s parent company, BECG, has won UK Consultancy of the Year at the PRCA Public Affairs Awards  after being nominated ten times  by judges from the PRCA National Awards, PRCA Public Affairs Awards, ICCO Global Awards and PR Week Awards.

At the PRCA Public Affairs Awards ceremony, which was held virtually via Zoom, the Group also won trade body campaign of the year for the delivery of a campaign that successfully secured employment support initiatives from the Government. 

The awards don’t stop there, earlier this week, the Group also won the Crisis and Issues Management Award at the ICCO Global Awards for our successful delivery of reputation management and a comprehensive stakeholder engagement strategy following a large fire incident.

And it was announced, that the Group has been shortlisted at the upcoming PR Week Corporate, City and Public Affairs Awards, for two further awards. As a contender for the Best Campaign to Actively Form or Shift Government Policy and Best Crisis Comms (excluding the coronavirus) category. 

Managing Director of Cavendish Advocacy, Alex Challoner commented:

“We are delighted our parent group BECG has been named the consultancy of the year, which is a huge achievement, and Cavendish Advocacy’s own award for Best Trade Campaign which together made the year end on a high note. Without a doubt, the year 2020 has been one of the most challenging years for all of us owning to the global pandemic and Brexit.


Just like businesses of all nature and size across the globe, we had to overcome a number of hurdles this year such as adjusting to the working from home environment and financial pressure.  I pay tribute to the hard work of my colleagues and look forward to the day when we can celebrate all these successes with our BECG colleagues in proper face-to-face style.”

A fresh start for Sheffield?

A fresh start for Sheffield?

Changes are afoot for Sheffield City Council following news that Cllr Bob Johnson will take over as Leader of the Council. Cllr Johnson will now wait until formalities are complete with a full-council meeting set for January. 

This all follows Cllr Julie Dore’s announcement earlier this year to stand down at the since cancelled 2020 local electionsCllr Dore and Sheffield’s Labour Group have decided now is the right time for a change. 

And the movements don’t stop there. The new year will also bring in a new chief executive for Sheffield: Kate Josephs, who will replace Charlie Adan who has held the post on an interim basis. 

So, why now? 

They say that a new year brings new beginnings and Sheffield City Council will certainly be hoping to make a break with the past and start 2021 anew. 

Cllr Dore’s leadership has been tarred by an incredibly messy tree-felling scandal. An Ombudsman’s report found that the authority had misled the public regarding a highways contract that saw a large number of trees, including healthy ones, removed. This led to local protests and campaign groups formed under the umbrella of Sheffield Tree Action Groups. The protests were met by arrests and even imprisonment – all of which has led to widespread condemnation. 

The Labour Group clearly hope that 2021 will be a chance to hit reset with a new leader, new chief executive and a likely reshuffled cabinet. 

But what does this all mean for us? 

Cllr Bob Johnson will leave behind his Cabinet role for Transport & Development. However, for the short-term he will still remain involved in the most pressing, and controversial, portfolios, namely: the long-awaited Local Plan; a review of the city’s active travel; and the postponed Clean Air Zone.  

Whilst this does sound like business as usual, it will be the medium to long-term where the council’s political dynamics could start to move. 

In May 2021, Sheffield’s voters will get to decide whether the city continues to be run by a ‘Leader and Cabinet’ system or whether its decision-making will change to a ‘Modern Committee’ system.  

It will be fascinating to see if the new leader will be able to make a clean break with the previous administration, who were often accused of making decisions ‘behind closed doors’and to see if this leads to more substantial changes to the way Sheffield City Council operates. 

We support a number of clients to engage effectively in Sheffield. If you need help understanding the local political landscape or would like to discuss this topic further, please do not hesitate to get in contact with Bob Ward. 

Tough choices but ‘levelling up’ remains a key policy – 5 key takeaways from the Spending Review

Tough choices but ‘levelling up’ remains a key policy – 5 key takeaways from the Spending Review

In yesterday’s Spending Review the Chancellor Rishi Sunak set out the government’s fiscal priorities for 2021-22 – a task not short of challenges. As the pandemic lingers, the country remains in economic crisis mode: the Office for Budget Responsibility has forecast that GDP will fall by 11.3% this year. Whilst 2021 is expected to return us to growth, the economy is not likely to reach pre-crisis levels before the end of 2022. Sunak faced a tough balancing act between stimulus for suffering businesses; help for overstretched frontline workers; and the Conservative Party’s desire to start delivering on their election promises.

COVID: one more heave

Despite the somewhat bleak figures released by the Office for Budget Responsibility, the Chancellor struck an optimistic tone on the pandemic. Thanks to advancements in vaccine development, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel. With this in mind, he set out a fiscal package to help us climb the last COVID mountain.

The government’s strategy on COVID is threefold: responding to the immediate impacts of the pandemic; invest to kickstart the UK’s economic recovery; and link this ‘rebuilding’ of the economy to their environmental and ‘levelling up’ objectives.

The Chancellor has confirmed an additional £38 billion for public services to continue to fight the pandemic this year. This brings the total spending on the COVID-19 response this year to over £280 billion. The Treasury will also provide a further £55 billion of support for the public services response next year to control and suppress the virus and support jobs and businesses.

The government is now keen to push along its domestic policy agenda beyond COVID – with Brexit looming, Boris Johnson’s team will soon have delivered on its biggest promise. So what next to keep the ‘Red Wall’ on side, whilst pleasing the Tory core demographic?

 Our top 5 takeaways from this Spending Review are:

  1. The tough choices made on public sector pay and Foreign Aid

The Chancellor pledged a pay rise to over a million nurses, doctors, and other NHS staff to reward their hard work during the pandemic. Those on the lowest incomes in the public sector, who earn below the median wage of £24,000, will also receive a pay rise of at least £250 next year. But the rest of the public sector will not receive a pay rise next year.

Overseas aid will be reduced to 0.5% for 2021 with a plan to return to 0.7% when “the fiscal position allows.” The Chancellor also confirmed the previous announcement made by the Prime Minister to invest £24 billion in defense, which is the biggest sustained increase in 30 years.

This has upset a number of Conservatives within the party’s left-leaning One Nation Caucus, but Number Ten will see this as a small political price to pay for trying to balance the books. Baroness Sugg, DFID Minister for Sustainable Development has also tendered her resignation in protest to the cut in Foreign Aid.


  1. The restart programme and continued investment in skills, jobs & training

The Chancellor has announced a new 3-year £2.9 billion “intense and tailored” ‘Restart’ scheme to support more than one million unemployed people to find work. The Department for Work and Pension’s budget also includes funding for measures announced in the ‘Plan for Jobs’ which focuses on job entry support measures for young people. The Kickstart Scheme will be financed with £2 billion to create new, fully subsidised jobs for young people across the country to mitigate the impact COVID-19 had on their career prospects.


  1. Making the UK a “scientific superpower” with R&D investment

The government wants to elevate Britain in the leagues of ‘scientific superpowers’ after Brexit. To set out its stall as a country at the forefront of innovation and technological developments, the spending review pledges almost £15 billion for Research & Development (R&D) next year. This will boost the UK’s existing research base and increase capacity and international competitiveness.

The government will also invest £260 million to continue digital infrastructure programmes, including the Shared Rural Network for 4G coverage, full network fibre and the 5G diversification and testbeds and trials programme.


  1. A continued effort to see an “infrastructure first” approach with Net Zero front of mind

The National Infrastructure Strategy was first expected in Sunak’s March budget but was delayed due to the pandemic. Now the document has been published alongside the Spending Review. It affirms the Government’s intentions to ‘level up’ the country, strengthen the Union and decarbonise the economy. To accelerate the delivery of infrastructure projects, it pledges:

  • A new £4bn cross-departmental Levelling Up Fund to invest in local infrastructure in England – crucially, projects that are green-lighted within this fund must have the support of their local MP.
  • £4.2 billion to support the largest city regions outside of London with intra-city transport settlements
  • £1 billion to establish carbon capture and storage in four industrial clusters
  • A new UK infrastructure bank, based in the North of England, to co-invest alongside the private sector to support levelling up and net zero
  • Reform of environmental regulations to deliver a new framework for assessing environmental impacts


  1. An ongoing commitment to the ‘levelling up’ agenda

Levelling up remains a key policy priority at the heart of the Conservative government. This is reflected in the highest sustained level of infrastructure funding for than more than 40 years and a new National Infrastructure Strategy.  Measures include:

  • £1.2 billion for faster broadband across the UK
  • £58 billion of investment confirmed for roads and rail
  • Multi-billion capital investment to deliver on the Government’s commitment to build 40 hospitals by 2030 and rebuild 500 schools
  • £5.2 billion for flood and coastal defense investment

The ‘levelling up’ agenda is a crucial element of the government’s re-election strategy. If the Tories want to hold on to their new-found heartlands in the North, they need to deliver. The fact that the government is planning to headquarter the new infrastructure bank in the north is symbolic of the government’s plans to hold those northern seats gained in 2019.

If you would like to discuss this topic further, then please do not hesitate to get in contact with Sabrina Huck here


Time to say goodbye

Time to say goodbye

For many people, the infighting which erupted in Number Ten last week likely appeared self-indulgent, particularly at a time of national crisis. However, for Westminster Watchers it was once again proof that, as with Thomas Cromwell, the axe can fall on even the most seemingly irreplaceable advisor.

Dominic Cummings had been the principal advisor to Boris Johnson since he became Prime Minister, and it is hard to overstate the influence which he and his team of Vote Leave alumni have held over the Government. They have set its policy agenda, centralised decision making, and steered the response to Covid-19.

Cummings was a controversial figure within Whitehall and Westminster. He attracted significant criticism for his reportedly abrasive style of management. He was especially mistrusted by MPs, angered by his attempts to sideline the Parliamentary party from the policy making process.

This mistrust turned into outright fury when the PM was required to expend significant political capital defending his trip to Barnard Castle during the first lockdown. This blunder enraged much of the public and damaged the credibility of the Government. It also led many to ask whether Cummings was worth it, and created a narrative that he was a timebomb waiting to be brought down by his own divisiveness. This was not entirely inaccurate.

The downfall of Dominic Cummings was sparked by a dispute over the appointment of a new Number Ten Chief of Staff. The Vote Leave faction had originally hoped that the role would go to Director of Communications, Lee Cain, as a means to reassert their influence following the hiring of Allegra Stratton as the PM’s Official Spokesperson.

This was opposed by both Stratton and the PM’s fiancé, Carrie Symonds (herself a former Conservative Special Adviser). Cummings and Cain responded by attempting to bounce the PM into appointing Cain to the role. They maneuvered and briefed against their opponents, but the PM’s patience had its limits, and both were ultimately required to hand in their resignations.

Their departure from Number Ten represents a mortal blow to the power of Vote Leave within Government. The big question is what comes next. In some way the timing is appropriate. The transition period ends on 31 December 2020 which means that one way or another, Britain will have left the EU, and the job of Vote Leave will be over.

The challenges that now await the PM are immense. He must address the national recovery from Covid-19, work towards achieving Net Zero, and salvage the levelling up agenda with what spending power HM Treasury can still call upon.

We have already seen this to some extent with the launch of his Ten Point Plan to deliver 250,000 jobs through the Green Industrial Revolution. Cummings, by all accounts, was never a convert to the sustainability agenda and believed it to be a niche interest of the metropolitan elite. However, the launch of the Green Industrial Revolution paints a picture of a PM with his own mind for policy, and we can expect sustainability to be at the heart of his strategy to rebuild the UK economy.

At a party management level, Boris Johnson also faces the challenge of rebuilding the relationship between Government and the Conservative backbenches. This task has fallen to Lord Udny-Lister, who has been appointed Interim Chief of Staff. Lord Udny-Lister is an old ally of Boris Johnson: a seasoned and grownup political operator. MPs, pleased by the departure of Cummings, have already reported that he is taking great strides to speak to MPs and listen to their concerns.

Observers will also be keen to see if the reorganisation in Number Ten will affect how the rest of Government operates. Under the old regime, decision making was centralised, and the Cabinet was kept on a short leash. This often led to criticism that the various departments were led by politicians whose willingness to toe the line came at the expense of ability. This move towards a more consensual style of Government should hopefully lead to Cabinet Ministers being confident enough to flex their own ministerial muscles, and encourage improved policy making.

All this is not to detract from Cumming’s clearly significant abilities. He was the brains behind the successful Vote Leave campaign, and a major influence in the 2019 General Election victory which shattered the Red Wall. However, no unelected advisor can be bigger than the Prime Minister and Dominic Cummings clearly blurred these lines. After all, no one leaves through the front door of Number Ten, box in hand, unless they have a point to make.