Open Europe is a Eurosceptic think tank which is part of the Stockholm Network and has neoconservative connections. Its research output consists mainly of calls to dismantle the Common Agricultural Policy, roll back EU regulation of trade and financial services, and repatriate the EU welfare budget to member states.
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Origins and History
- 3 The Fresh Start Project and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for European Reform
- 4 Examples of influence
- 5 Stockholm Network
- 6 Neocon connections
- 7 People
- 8 Contact
- 9 Resources
- 10 References
The European issue has been a defining fault-line for Conservatives for a generation. Although Open Europe is not especially well known, it is arguably a very significant organisation connected to Cameron’s advisers. The think-tank is unusual in that it is directly supported by individual business leaders, and claims to refuse money from 'EU institutions, governments or big corporations'. ‘Open Europe believes’, says their website, ‘that the EU must now embrace radical reform based on economic liberalisation’.What this appears to mean is integrating all EU countries further and faster into the global economy but with a distinct eurosceptic tinge. The Marquess of Salisbury sits on its board, and some notable supporters are: John Sainsbury (Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover, who donated to Cameron’s leadership campaign along with fellow donor Peter Gummer, Lord Chadlington), Andrew Allum, Henry Angest, Sir John Beckwith, Lord Blakenham, Roger Bootle, Lord Harris of Peckham, Sir John Coles, and Sir David Davis.
Origins and History
Open Europe grew out of a collection of broadly euro-sceptic campaign groups that appeared between 1998-2005. The first was Business for Sterling, which was launched by the Labour Cabinet minister (and ex chairman of British Rail) Lord Marsh on 11 June 1998 as a campaign against British integration into the Euro. It had the backing of senior anti-euro business chiefs (Sir Stanley Kalms, Sir Michael Edwardes, Lord Hanson, Sir Rocco Forte) and in September 2000 combined with another anti-euro campaign group New Europe to form the simply-titled “No” campaign. The merge was announced by the launch of a multi-million pound advertising offensive under the strap-line ‘Europe Yes. Euro No’, which was handled by M&C Saatchi. As this slogan suggests, neither New Europe nor Business for Sterling explicitly professed an anti-EU stance; both groups claimed to support the single market, but not integration into a single European currency. In May 2003 - once the perceived threat of the single currency had disappeared - Lord Saatchi backed a new cross-party group, Vote 2004, which was set up to campaign for a referendum on whether to accept the forthcoming findings of the European Convention. Vote 2004 subsequently became Vote No, and was registered as a company Vote No Ltd in May 2004.
This was the milieu of broadly euro-sceptic organisations out of which Open Europe emerged, and from which the think-tank drew its initial staff. In an op-ed in the Financial Times on 18 October 2005, Lord Rodney Leach (who had been chairman of Business for Sterling since its inception) announced that:
This week will see the launch of Open Europe, a UK think-tank that aims to set out a detailed programme of radical reform. It has commissioned leading economists to examine the potential benefits of removing the EU’s trade barriers and reforming the CAP. Their report shows that free trade is not just good for business: it is also a progressive policy.
Writing as the chairman of the soon to be launched Open Europe, Leach argued that there were two imperatives for EU reform: it needed to ‘embrace the painful economic reforms needed to succeed in the 21st century’, and to ‘abandon the historic drive to “ever closer union”’. Two days later, the think-tank launched officially at Bloomberg’s European headquarters in Finsbury Square, London. Leach spoke as chairman of the board of directors, as did Derek Scott (who had been an special advisor to Tony Blair between 1997 and 2003) as deputy chairman. Neil O’Brien, who had up to that point been campaign director of Vote 2004, was appointed as Company Secretary. Lorraine Mullally, who had also been a communications officer at Vote 2004, was appointed as head of research and communications. Paul Stephenson, a researcher at Vote 2004, was employed as a researcher, as was Tom Boal, who had previously worked for the “No” campaign.
Open Europe was incorporated as a UK company on 25 July 2005. Its website was registered on 11 July 2005.  It is hosted under the same IP address (220.127.116.11) which hosts the websites of Nick Herbert MP (CEO of Business for Sterling between 1998 and 2000, founder of the "No" Campaign, and former Director of Reform), Theos, and Policy Exchange.
As of July 2006, the board of Open Europe was comprised of the following people:
The Fresh Start Project and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for European Reform
Open Europe is connected to parliament via both the Fresh Start Project, a parliamentary grouping of Conservative MPs concerned by EU issues, and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for European Reform.
The Fresh Start Project was co-founded in October 2011 by George Eustice MP, ex-CEO of Business for Sterling, and Andrea Leadsom MP, who on April 14 2014 was appointed Economic Secretary to the Treasury after serving on the Treasury Select Committee for four years. According to the minutes of their meetings, the group bases their discussions on Open Europe reports.
The APPG for European Reform was founded at a similar time to the Fresh Start Project, holding its inaugural meeting on 10 November 2011. At this meeting, Leadsom was elected co-chair of the group, and Eustice an Officer. Open Europe was instituted as secretariat to the group, giving them very close proximity to MPs.
Leadsom’s connections to Open Europe predate her involvement in the founding of the APPG and the Fresh Start Project. Before being elected Conservative MP for South Northamptonshire in 2010, Leadsom was Managing Director of De Putron Fund Management between 1997 and 1999, and a Senior Investment Officer at Invesco Perpetual between 1999-2009. Using data gathered by the Washington-based organisation the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a July 2014 report by The Guardian found that Peter de Putron - brother-in-law of Andrea Leadsom and founder of De Putron Fund Management - had donated £816,000 to the Conservative Party since 2010, and £680,000 to Open Europe since its foundation in 2005. The donations to both the Conservatives and to Open Europe were channelled through the company Gloucester Research (now called G-Research), at which Andrea’s husband, Ben Leadsom, is a director.
The following reports formed the basis of discussion for meetings of either the Fresh Start Project, the APPG for European Reform, or both:
- ‘What works? How to reduce emissions at the lowest cost’ (22 January 2008).
The report argues against EU’s 2020 target of a 10% use of biofuels across the EU, as they are (according to OE) the most expensive way to cut carbon emissions. Accordingly, the EU should scrap the target, as well as subsidies for biofuels.
- ‘Repatriating EU Social policy: The best choice for jobs and growth?’ (9 November 2011).
The report argues that the UK should repatriate social policy currently decided in Brussels. Social policy, in this instance, involves employment regulations: the Working Time Directive (WTD), the Agency Workers Directive (AWD), as well as workplace directives on things like asbestos, levels of exposure to noise at work. Open Europe argue that these things should be brought back under national control.
A summary of the report made by Andrea Leadsom began a meeting of the Fresh Start Project on 14 November 2011. Mats Persson, the current director of Open Europe, also presented the report to a meeting of the APPG on 10 November 2011. He began by stating that ‘EU social law is costing the UK £8.6bn a year’.
- ‘Continental Shift: Safeguarding the UK’s financial trade in a changing Europe’ (5 December 2011).
This report argues for national sovereignty over banking regulation, and points to the potential for banks to flee London should any Financial Transactions Tax be imposed in the EU or the Eurozone. It also argues that the UK’s influence over financial regulation should be weighted to reflect its large share of the EU’s total finance industry. As the title suggests, it seeks to ‘keep the city open for business’.
- ‘Off target: The case for bringing regional policy back home’ (24 January 2012). 
One of many Open Europe reports about the EU’s structural and cohesion (welfare) funds, arguing that they continue to be poorly targeted and that funds should be repatriated to member states. Doing so, the report argues, would save on administration costs, and increase the amount of subsidy available for regional development in the UK.
- ‘An unavoidable choice: More or less EU control over UK policing and criminal law’ (29 January 2012).
A report on whether the UK should repatriate 130 EU crime and policing laws, or transfer full control over these laws to EU judges for the first time. The report argues that the UK should repatriate them.
- ‘More for Less: making the EU’s farm policy work for growth and the environment’ (27 February 2012).
Argues that the UK government should use on-going negotiations over the EU’s long-term budget to reform the Common Agricultural Policy. The UK, the report argues, is a big loser from the CAP. Whilst full ‘liberalisation’ of the CAP would be viable, it would not gain enough political support. The report proposes, therefore, a streamlined version of the CAP.
- ‘Tread Carefully: The impact and management of EU free movement and immigration policy’ (12 March 2012).
Argues in favour of the UK’s current approach to national/EU immigration policy, through which it can opt into EU laws which are in its national interest. The report argues that this approach could be improved by creating a ‘reversible opt-in’, so that opt-in decisions made by one government do not bind the next. It also argues that the UK should work with the European Commission and other member states to come up with the means to resist EU-imposed strains on public finances.
- ‘Trading places: Is EU membership still the best option for UK trade?’ (12 June 2012).
Argues that in terms of UK trade, all the options that involve leaving the EU are unviable: remaining as part of the EU is still the best scenario for the UK economy. The report warns that if either: EU ‘liberalisation’ stalls; the EU moves to protectionism in the wake of the Eurozone crisis; or the EU prevents the UK from seizing growth opportunities in non-EU countries, then membership needs to be re-evaluated.
Examples of influence
On 5 December 2011, Open Europe published a briefing, Continental Shift: Safeguarding the UK’s financial trade in a changing Europe, which Ed Conway, economics editor of Sky News, said "seems to have influenced and informed the Prime Minister's position negotiating in Brussels". The Open Europe Blog suggested UK Prime Minister David Cameron "Insert a political declaration in the summit conclusions tomorrow that calls for concrete measures to protect non-euro member states' economic interests; 2) Work out concrete protocol language amounting to a UK safeguard over EU financial services". The first had already been detailed in a "secret Foreign Office diplomatic note"; the second, not published as of 14 December 2011, corresponds to the "specific protocol on financial services" mentioned by EU President Barroso that resulted in the remaining 26 countries of the EU "moving ahead [on a fiscal compact] without UK’s participation". Prior to this outcome, some commentators had suggested Cameron might succeed, and satisfy Conservative MPs: "the sceptical think tank Open Europe has argued for a protocol for the single market where Britain's influence over financial services laws could be safeguarded, particularly against decisions taken by the eurozone that will impact on all 27 EU countries. As a text contained within a formal protocol, this would have some legal basis."
Open Europe, like both Politeia and the Policy Exchange, is a member of the Stockholm Network of free market think tanks whose membership also includes the stalwarts of the free market right from the early stages of the neo-liberal revolution such as the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Adam Smith Institute, the Centre for Policy Studies and the Social Affairs Unit (of a total of 19 UK member organisations).
The Stockholm Network is the ‘main liaison channel’ for free market European think tanks. It was founded in September 1997 and claims to bring together over 120 think tanks from across Europe.The member groups are primarily ‘dogmatic free-marketeers who want to introduce minimalist "flat taxes" (thus ending redistribution via taxation), terminate social protection systems and privatise healthcare. They attack socially or environmentally progressive legislation, which is in place or under discussion, and that places restrictions on market activity. For example, these think tanks consistently cast doubt on the seriousness of climate change, oppose environmental regulations and promote free-market pseudo-solutions to virtually every problem.'
The Stockholm Network links also to the network of right wing think tanks in the US. It has close links with the Heritage Foundation, which ‘frequently’ sends staff to Europe and has ‘worked closely with five like-minded European think tanks to produce and launch a European edition of their Index of Economic Freedom, which ranks countries according to criteria like tax reduction and deregulation policies.’
The 2006 accounts of the right-wing American Smith Richardson Foundation describe a $176,000 grant given to Open Europe's then Director Neil O'Brien to research and write a book on the EU for the Policy Forum on International Security Affairs. The project was titled Reforming the E.U. for the 21st Century: Roadmaps for Reform and described as follows:
Neil O’Brien will research and write a book exploring the future of the European Union. He will commission public opinion research, conduct interviews with leading European officials, and convene a series of meetings in order to develop a roadmap for reform of the European Union.
As of July 2009 the book does not so far appear to have been published, although Open Europe did arrange a seminar called 'Reforming the EU for the 21st century' on 14 May 2009 at the Europaforum in Hässleholm. The speakers at the seminar were Mats Persson and Lorraine Mullally from Open Europe and Bruno Waterfield the EU correspondent for the Daily Telegraph. 
The 2007 accounts of the Policy Forum on International Security Affairs reveal that the forum provided a grant of $78,080 to Open Europe that year.  The accounts provide no further details of the purpose of the grant.
|Funding agency||2005||2006||2007||2008||2009||2010||2011||2012||2013||Total 2005-2013|
|Institute for Policy Research||70,000||95,346||127,000||181,500||105,000||143,000||113,000||300,000||201,000||1,335,846|
|The Sir John Ritblat Family Foundation||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1,000||?||1,000|
In 2014 offshore financier Peter de Putron and brother-in-law of UK financial services minister Andrea Leadsom was revealed as a major donor to both the Conservative Party and Open Europe. Records obtained from a US nonprofit news organisation, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists showed he had given a total of £680,000 to Open Europe. 
On 22 May 2007 Open Europe co-hosted an event at the House of Commons with the International Media Intelligence Analysis called 'Iran, Britain and Europe: Post hostage crisis, what can we expect next?'. The event included presentations by Claude Moniquet, the Director of the European Strategic and Intelligence Center and Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies and former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Non-proliferation at the State Department.
Fitzpatrick said that Iran was looking to develop longer range missiles capable of reaching western Europe and that Israel “has real reason to see an Iranian nuclear capability as an existential threat”. Moniquet said that there was a danger of terrorist attacks in Europe if military action is taken against Iran, saying that “Iran was a terrorist state for 23 years. We have no proof this has changed. Iran is working hard to organise terror in Europe,” targeting the UK in particular. 
On 9 October 2007 Open Europe hosted a debate on the Galileo European Satellite System. One speaker at the debate was Peter Brookes of the Heritage Foundation. According to Open Europe's account of the speech Brookes said that some in the US are alarmed about the military aspects of the Galileo and saw the push for the system as symptomatic of some in Europe that are pushing Europe to pursue its own security and defence identity, separate from the US and NATO. He said: “It could be argued that the militarisation of the EU – Galileo being part of that – marks one of the greatest geo-political shifts in the transatlantic alliance since the second world war. In the eyes of some the ESDP [European Security and Defense Policy] embodies some of the worst elements of European animosity towards the United States.” 
- 7 Tufton Street, London
- Open Europe 2005-2007Board Accessed 22 Aug 2007
- Open Europe 2005-2007Supporters Accessed 22 Aug 2007
- Open Europe, Make a Donation, accessed 6 August 2014
- Open Europe, About Us, accessed 25 February 2009
- Colin Brown, ‘Business for Sterling to campaign against euro’, Independent, 11 June 1998. ‘Business for Sterling to campaign against euro’, “Independent”, 11 June 1998.
- BBC News, 4 September 2000
- David Cracknell, Anti-euro groups combine to run No campaign, “Telegraph”, 3 September 2000.
- Robert Evans, “Talking about Money: Public Participation and Expert Knowledge in the Euro Referendum”, University of Cardiff School of Social Sciences Department, Working Paper 31 (November 2002), p. 17.
- Colin Brown & Francis Elliot, New campaign launched for referendum on EU ‘superstate’, “Telegraph”, 18 May 2003.
- Steve Richards, 'A campaign with a winning message - and a complete lack of self-confidence', Independent, 19 May 2005
- Rodney Leach, ‘European reformers must be bold’, “Financial Times”, October 18 2005.
- Rodney Leach, ‘European reformers must be bold’
- Open Europe Events, 2005
- Open Europe Ltd Companies House Appointments, accessed 18 June 2009
- Lorraine Mullally, LinkedIn
- Tom Boal, Portland Communications; Paul Stephenson, LinkedIn
- Open Europe Whois Record, accessed from Domain Tools at 9:35 on 18 June 2009
- Tom Baldwin, ‘Davis team plan fuels fears over factions’, The Times, 27 October 2001
- Reverse IP Search, 10:22, 18 June 2009
- Open Europe Board, July 2006
- Andrea Leadsom; George Eustice, We must make progress on the EU sooner rather than later, Fresh Start Blog, 31 October 2011.
- See the minutes of their inaugural meeting, Fresh Start Project, 14 November 2011.
- APPG on European Reform, 10 November 2011; UK Parliament registration information for APPG on European Reform.
- ‘LEADSOM, Andrea Jacqueline’, Who's Who 2014, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2014; online edn., Oxford University Press 2013, accessed 9 July 2014.
- David Leigh, James Ball and Leila Haddou, Top Tory has family link with offshore banker who gave party £800,000, The Guardian, 8 July 2014, acc 16 July 2014 Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; name "banker" defined multiple times with different content
- What works? How to reduce emissions at the lowest cost, Open Europe, January 2008.
- Meeting Minutes of the APPG for European Reform, 12 June 2012.
- Repatriating EU Social policy: The best choice for jobs and growth?, Open Europe, November 2011.
- Meeting Minutes of the Fresh Start Project, 14 November 2011.
- Meeting Minutes of the APPG on European Reform, 10 November 2011.
- Continental Shift: Safeguarding the UK’s financial trade in a changing Europe, Open Europe, 5 December 2011.
- ‘Continental Shift’, p. 4.
- Meeting Minutes of the APPG on European Reform, 5 December 2011.
- Off target: The case for bringing regional policy back home, Open Europe, 24 January 2012.
- Meeting Minutes of the Fresh Start Group, 25 January 2012.
- Meeting Minutes of the APPG for European Reform, 24 January 2012.
- An unavoidable choice: More or less EU control over UK policing and criminal law, Open Europe, 29 January 2012.
- Meeting Minutes of the Fresh Start Project, 1 June 2012.
- Meeting Minutes of the APPG for European Reform, 31 January 2012.
- More for Less: making the EU’s farm policy work for growth and the environment, Open Europe, 27 February 2012.
- ‘More for Less’, p. 3.
- Meeting Minutes of the Fresh Start Project, 29 February 2012.
- Meeting Minutes of the APPG for European Reform, 28 February 2012.
- Tread Carefully: The impact and management of EU free movement and immigration policy, Open Europe, 12 March 2012.
- Meeting Minutes of the APPG for European Reform, 31 March 2012.
- Trading places: Is EU membership still the best option for UK trade?, Open Europe, 12 June 2012.
- Meeting Minutes of the APPG for European Reform
- Open Europe press release, "UK Government should use EU Treaty negotiations to secure “emergency brake” on financial laws", 5 December 2011, accessed 14 December 2011; PDF of report
- Ed Conway, What the PM Really Asked For In Brussels, Sky News, 9 December 2011
- Bruno Waterfield, Debt crisis: as it happened December 8, 2011, Daily Telegraph, 8 December 2011, accessed 14 December 2011
- James Landale, PM's EU task: Saving the euro and saving his party, BBC News, 7 December 2011, accessed 14 December 2011
- See the list of UK members at http://www.stockholm-network.org/network/details.php?id=1, accessed 2 April 2007.
- Corporate Europe Observatory, "Covert industry funding fuels the expansion of radical rightwing EU think tanks", July 2005. http://www.corporateeurope.org/stockholmnetwork.html
- Corporate Europe Observatory, 2005.
- Annual Report 2006, Smith Richardson Foundation, Inc. Accessed 27 December 2008.
- Europaforum, Hässleholm, Torsdag 14 maj/Thursday, accessed 19 June 2009
- Policy Forum on International Security Affairs 2007 IRS Form 990, p.3
- Data compiled from filings at the Charity Commission.
- 'Iran, Britain and Europe: Post hostage crisis, what can we expect next? - 22 May 2007', Open Europe Events, accessed 19 June 2009
- 'Galileo - is it worth it? 9 October, 2007', Open Europe Events, accessed 19 June 2009