Sector: Government Relations and Public Affairs

The Securonomics Revolution?  Labour’s redprint for reshaping Britain’s economy

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The year is 2025. Out steps Chancellor Rachel Reeves through the famous door of Number 11 Downing Street – Budget box held proudly aloft – and her trusty team of Labour advisors celebrating the dawn of a new fiscal era. If the current polls are to be believed, it very much could happen.

The former Bank of England economist has enjoyed an impressive road to stardom having been appointed Shadow Chancellor in 2021 following a variety of shadow ministerial posts under Ed Miliband. PPE at Oxford was followd by a successful banking career, and Reeves now stands on the cusp of becoming the UK’s first ever female Chancellor of the Exchequer.

There’s no doubt that under the leadership of Keir Starmer, Labour’s approach to tax and spend has very much deviated from the radical approaches championed by his immediate predecessor. Both Reeves and Starmer have stressed the fiscal limitations which will constrain any future Labour government spending, while in opposition, Reeves’ iron grip in ensuring all policy announcements are fully costed has helped rebuild Labour’s position as a credible government in waiting, whilst also taking the wind out of the sails of the Conservative’s “party of business” moniker.

Under Reeves, Labour have embarked on two core economic missions. The first – and by far most challenging – securing the trust of the British public over control of the public purse. It’s no coincidence that Lisa Nandy, Wes Streeting and other big hitters within the Shadow Cabinet have been unable to unleash bold, expensive policy announcements in their media interviews – the hand of Reeves hovering over their shoulder and the message discipline of fiscal competence running through every vein of Labour policy making. Reeves has learnt the lesson which has scuppered many a Shadow Chancellor – that economic power can only be gained through public trust. And public trust can only be gained through disciplined spending promises.

The second core economic mission which Reeves has sought to drive in partnership with the party Leader is to position Labour’s fiscal priorities around those of the country. Borrowing to fund sustainable infrastructure projects, greater investment in the NHS and reforming the education system are all policy priorities which chime with the party’s core audience – the centre ground. The party hasn’t sought to tie itself in fiscal knots over issues about which it knows the electorate is not concerned – but has married spending priorities with the public consciousness – an approach which Reeves believes will result in electoral success.

Packaging Labour’s economic message into a simple, digestible, and – critically – electable summary however has been Reeves’ Achilles heel. While some may describe her economic position as closely aligned to the New Labour project, Starmer and Reeves have struggled to define their fiscal strategy in quite the same way. Reeves has unveiled that Labour’s economic policy will be branded under the umbrella term “securonomics”, focusing on economic security and the resilience of industry in an uncertain global economy. “It shows how an active, strategic, state will work in harmony with vibrant and open markets” said Reeves in Washington last month, yet for Labour it will be concerning that a rebrand of its economic strategy received limited coverage in the broadsheets, with many journalist being more interested in the Shadow Chancellor’s decision to fly in business class rather than economy.

For securonomics to work, Reeves understands that winning the war on the domestic battlefield is only part of the solution. The trip to Washington to meet with counterparts in the US has underpinned the Shadow Chancellor’s belief that garnering the support of international advocates is essential to persuading the UK electorate that she and Keir Starmer have the credibility for leadership – and that one time worries of capital flight and a crumbling pound under Labour are no longer rooted in political reality.

Yet what of Reeves’ personal appeal? Disappointingly for the Shadow Chancellor, her public popularity has struggled to take off in the way she may have hoped. Current YouGov projections place both her and Jeremy Hunt at 18% on “who would make the best Chancellor” with an enormous 65% of the sample unsure about their preferred choice. It may be unrealistic to expect Reeves to be as embedded in the public psyche as Gordon Brown was in 1997, but to be level pegging with a Chancellor who became infamous for fighting junior doctors, losing a Conservative leadership contest and needed his political life salvaged by Liz Truss, will be a bitter pill to swallow.

Ultimately, Rachel Reeves will be desperate to ensure Labour is not just the party of workers, but the party of enterprise. Partnering with private investors and building bridges with the City have been central to the Shadow Chancellor’s approach – recent roundtables with senior business leaders have not happened by accident. Business must feel a new sense of confidence engaging with Labour under the fiscal stewardship of Reeves – commercial objectives and Labour policy now working in harmony to deliver outcomes, no longer the polarising forces they once were.

If you want to hear more about Labour’s economic policies and what they will mean for your business, please get in touch with our Corporate Affairs Team.

Interview with Sarina Kiayani, Senior Public Affairs Officer, Dogs Trust  

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At Grayling we wanted to shine a light on the incredible women in the Public Affairs industry and the work they do. 

Over the next couple of weeks, we will be posting a series of interviews with inspirational women across the Public Affairs industry, discussing their careers and their experiences so far, how we can make the industry more inclusive, welcoming and progressive – for both men and women – as well as their predictions for the year ahead in politics. 

This week, we spoke to Sarina Kiayani, Senior Public Affairs Officer at Dogs Trust.


Sarina Kiayani is a Senior Public Affairs Officer at Dogs Trust. She has previously worked in agency at FleishmanHillard and Dentons Global Advisors. She is an advocate of women’s issues and is currently Women’s Officer of Young Labour, Membership and Recruitment Lead of Labour in Communications and Social Media Officer of the London Young Fabians. 

What attracted you to a career in public affairs?
I was always very interested in politics, having studied it at A-Level and university. When I graduated, I knew that I wanted to work in politics but not for a particular party, so that’s how I ended up drawn to Public Affairs. It was actually an internship at Grayling in my second year of university that made me decide to work in Public Affairs!

What advice would you give to women who want a career public affairs?
Joining networking groups, such as Women in Public Affairs, and attending their events is a great way of speaking to people in the sector to get advice on tips on applications. It’s also good to build your own political profile, such as through attending events run by political organisations and writing blogs, and to keep up with the news and key events like the Budget.

What has been your career highlight to date? 
Working with Carolyn Harris MP as part of the Menopause APPG to successfully lobby the Government to cut the cost of HRT prescriptions for those going through menopause. Menopause affects 50% of the population, with many suffering adverse side effects and unable to access sufficient treatment due to high costs. Because of Carolyn and her amazing activism, access to menopause treatment has now become fairer and more open to those on lower incomes.

What are your predictions for the coming year in politics?
The Government has been flagging in the polls for a while, so I think we will see them trying to retain their voter base as much as possible – the immigration announcements are just the start of this. The content of the recent Budget was another indicator of this, but I expect there to be more of a wider focus on driving up economic productivity and keeping closer ties to businesses through regular engagement to avoid losing their support – which is good for Public Affairs professionals, I guess!

How can the public affairs industry deliver gender equity?
Producing surveys and action plans to identify where there are gaps in organisations on gender parity, and how this can be addressed. Also profiling women in the industry, through blogs and knowledge-sharing events. 

Interview with Madeleine Hallward, Non-Executive Director, Office of Rail & Road

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Inspired by International Women’s Day, at Grayling we wanted to shine a light on the incredible women in the Public Affairs industry and the work they do.

Over the coming weeks, we will be posting a series of interviews with inspirational women across the Public Affairs industry, discussing their careers and their experiences so far, how we can make the industry more inclusive, welcoming and progressive – for both men and women – as well as their predictions for the year ahead in politics. This week, we spoke to Madeleine Hallward, Non-Executive Director of Office of Rail and Road.


Madeleine Hallward is an experienced non-executive director and communications professional working in the public affairs industry for 17 years. Through her career, she has become an expert in internal, external and crisis communications, stakeholder engagement, change management, and media relations. Her previous in-house roles include (Ford, Diageo, Bloomberg, and the Energy Retail Association. She is a persuasive advocate and trusted adviser, with policy expertise, sound judgement and an informed instinct for internal and external networking. She has recently joined the Taylor Bennett reverse mentoring scheme, and is being mentored by the brilliant Samiah Anderson.

What attracted you to a career in public affairs?
I fell into public affairs by accident – I had worked in parliament, which was a really enjoyable year but I didn’t consider it as a career because I was more interested in the PR marketing side of things. I joined Diageo’s graduate scheme and was working in the marketing department when a job came up in the government affairs team. I took it and never looked back.

So whilst it was curiosity that got me here, it’s the variety that has kept me here. This is an industry filled with really smart, social people; there’s so much to keep your brain engaged.

What does International Woman’s Day mean to you?
My relationship with International Women’s Day has changed a lot over the years. In my younger years, I was faintly embarrassed by it and it wasn’t until I married and the question about whether I would change my name came up that I rediscovered my latent feminism.

So I went from faintly embarrassed, to pleased that it prompts conversations, and now frustrated that more than 50 years after the Equal Pay Act, we still don’t have equal pay – in fact, we have a persistent and occasionally growing gender pay gap in the UK, whilst parental leave is still talked about as a female benefit.

So, I’d say that my attitude towards International Women’s Day is that it’s not an excuse to do nothing for the rest of the year. That’s why we need things like the gender pay gap bot @paygapapp, calling out companies who commercialise the day yet continue to have a gender pay gap and an absence of female representation in the board room.

What advice would you give to women who want a career in public affairs?
My advice to women in the profession is what I always say to women in my team: don’t wait to be offered flexibility, seize it as you need it and be the leader that you want to see.

Don’t wait to be asked in a meeting – if you’re invited to a round table, make sure you’re seated at the table. Take the chair, make the point; don’t wait for space, because there probably won’t be one.

What has your career highlight been to date?
There have been lots – I’ve amended primary legislation, I’ve spearheaded successful campaigns. But I think probably, the highlight is that I’m still doing interesting, intellectually challenging work 20 years on – and politics only ever gets more interesting.

What are your predictions for the coming year in politics?
I would hesitate to predict. I always say that actually, general elections and the political cycle shouldn’t really make any difference to the way that public affairs practitioners engage with politicians and with politics. Your engagement should be sufficiently broad and deep to withstand whatever changes there are in the political weather.

So, as you were and expect the unexpected would be my predictions.

How can the public affairs industry deliver on the International Women’s Day theme of embracing gender equity?
As an industry we are a microcosm of the problem, which is that up to about four years into a PR or Public Affairs career, women have a positive pay gap versus their male counterparts. But over the next 15 years or so, getting to the leadership roles, women drop out and there are more women who work part time or who leave the industry all together because they don’t get the flexibility they need and they’re still generally expected to be the caregivers.

As an industry with all these women, we have the ability to take a really good, hard look at what policies are needed. We need parental leave; we don’t need good maternity policy, we need good parental policy. We could be offering that flexibility to practitioners across the board and we shouldn’t be describing our parental leave as industry-leading unless it is offered to both mothers and fathers.

We need to talk about tackling responsibilities more widely. Responsibilities come in many shapes and sizes, and we need to recognise that for every individual work and life is a balance we all have to deal with and that looks different for everybody.

At Grayling, you’re in a particularly good place to start doing that. On the whole, women are so underrepresented at board level, but with both your Global CEO and Global CFO being women, you’ve got real balance at the top and that’s unusual.

Interview with Sophia Greenblat-Tal – Public Affairs Officer, Cancer Research UK

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Inspired by International Women’s Day, at Grayling we wanted to shine a light on the incredible women in the Public Affairs industry and the work they do.

Over the coming weeks, we will be posting a series of interviews with inspirational women across the Public Affairs industry, discussing their careers and their experiences so far, how we can make the industry more inclusive, welcoming and progressive – for both men and women – as well as their predictions for the year ahead in politics. This week, we spoke to Sophia Greenblat-Tal, Public Affairs Officer at Cancer Research UK.


Coming to the UK as an international student in 2016 after having lived in 5 different countries, Sophia began working in public affairs in 2018. In the last 5 years, she has worked on a variety of campaigns, from Brexit to animal rights. She also helped train Conservative Prospective Parliamentary candidates. Recently she joined Cancer Research UK as their Public Affairs Officer, focusing on prevention. She currently works on their Smokefree UK campaign.

What attracted you to a career in public affairs?
I got into public affairs a bit by accident. I had planned to get into Academia, but when I got a part-time role in a public affairs agency, it was very clear that I had found my place. I always wanted to do work that changed the world, or at least my bit of it. I also love people: how different they are, their different stories and why they think the way they do. This job is a lot about listening to people, understanding their motivations and trying to find common ground, so you can get something done, be that for a client or for a cause.

What does IWD mean to you?
Where I come from, International Women’s Day is not just about discussing the issues that affect women. It is about celebrating women and their achievements. We are very lucky that the women who came before us paved the way for us to be able to do what we do. It was only just over a century ago that women in this country first got the vote. International Women’s Day is about celebrating them and celebrating us.

What advice would you give to women who want a career public affairs?
Do it! Not because it is easy, but because it is hard. It is not the boy’s club it once was, but you will encounter adversity. We all do. However, we need people of all perspectives in this field. Bring your own, speak your mind, learn from others and never let anyone make your voice small.

What has been your career highlight to date?
Getting my current job at Cancer Research UK. This job lets me do amazing work for the most amazing cause.

What are your predictions for the coming year in politics?

  • Hopefully no General Elections quite yet, but I do think the Local Elections will be tilted very much in Labour’s favour.
  • The Conservative manifesto will try to appeal to the voters it won in 2019, with token policies for young people like stronger environmental policies.
  • I also expect some unexpected announcement from MPs who are choosing not to stand in 2024.
  • Regardless of who wins the SNP leadership, the SNP’s grip on Scotland will loosen more and more, with Labour rising in the polls.

How can the public affairs industry deliver on IWD theme of embracing gender equity?
Give women female mentors. I find mentorship to be one of the most productive forms of learning and development. Mentorship from other women is even better. They know what it is like to be in your shoes, so they can give better advice.

Renewables take centre stage in Scotland

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The timing could not have been more apt. Just as it was announced that wind turbines had generated more electricity than gas in the UK for the first time, the Scottish and UK renewables and decarbonisation community met at the annual All-Energy Conference in Glasgow last week.

I’ve been attending All-Energy for many years from its early beginnings in Aberdeen. This year’s conference felt larger and busier than many I’ve attended. Was there a new wind in the renewable sector’s sails?

Renewables growth
Certainly, in Scotland, energy and planning policy is being steered in the sector’s favour. The recently adopted National Planning Framework 4 paves the way for onshore renewables, complemented by an onshore energy strategy that envisages a further 12GW of onshore renewables installed capacity – let alone the huge growth in offshore renewables. A new sector deal with the wind sector remains on schedule for early autumn and there is a sense of greater collaboration with the Scottish Government following the publication of the recent consultation on renewable energy, which should be finalised later this year.

The Scottish market looks very open for renewable and decarbonisation technology, with strong interest from overseas investors, as well as home-grown companies. It came as little surprise then that the exhibitor’s hall was brimming this year at All-Energy, with over 200 exhibitors and a buzz of activity throughout the two-day event.

Scottish Government Ministers were also in plentiful supply. As well as the First Minister opening the event, attendees included Energy Minister, Gillian Martin; Transport Minister, Kevin Stewart; Minister for Green Skills, as well as the two Scottish Green Party Ministers. That was in contrast to the UK Government, which had recently reiterated support for gas and oilfield exploration, kept a lower profile.

Yet, while there was general support for the Scottish Government’s support to the wind sector, challenges remain. Major constraints, such as grid access and planning department resources, remain.  Without action to address some of these constraints, the inward flow of investment into the sector ay start to dry up.

The wider decarbonisation agenda
While much of the focus of the event naturally hung on wind, this year much of the buzz was around hydrogen and the potential of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCUS). The First Minister used his opening speech to announce funding to new hydrogen projects across Scotland. Both the First Minister and the Energy Minister urged the UK Government to accelerate the timeline for confirming the Acorn CO2 project, asserting that carbon capture and storage is essential in reducing emissions in difficult to decarbonise industries.

But many wider challenges remain for the Scottish and UK Government. Two issues alone were hot topics for debate – decarbonising transport and housing stock. On the decarbonisation of transport, the challenge for industry to move towards non-fossil fuels was highlighted by hauliers and wholesalers. Heat transition is another difficult area. While the Heat in Buildings Public Engagement Strategy is expected to be published later this year, even the Scottish Government admits it will cost at least £33 billion in investment to transform building stock by 2045.

All-Energy demonstrated the vibrancy of the Scottish renewables market, but also highlighted some of the fractures between the UK and Scottish Governments. Without action to address some of the significant constraints on the Scottish energy market, the renewables revolution may start to falter. And while other technologies are coming through and have strong political backing, the route map to delivery still seems less than clear. The challenge is for industry to make sure that both the UK and Scottish Government can bring further clarity by the time it meets again at the next All-Energy conference.

If you would like to know more about Scotland and the UK’s energy strategy, please contact Ross Laird at

Grayling AcTrend Report: Governments Outrank Parliaments on Legislative Initiative

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Report on legislative changes across the CEE region in 2022
  • Eight CEE countries adopted 1,437 laws in 2022 – a 14% increase compared to pre-pandemic levels
  • On average, almost 50% of laws had a direct impact on businesses

Almost 1,500 laws were adopted by the eight countries in Central and Eastern Europe, as shown by the AcTrend Report conducted by Grayling, the communications and government relations consultancy.

The report analysed legislative changes taking place in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Poland, Czechia, Slovakia and Croatia between January 1, 2022 – December 31, 2022.  Romania led in quantitative terms with more than one third (573) of the total number of laws, followed by Poland with 189 acts of primary legislation, Slovakia – 176 and Croatia – 158. At the opposite end are Serbia (60) and Hungary (83).

Compared to the figures from 2013-2017 there has been a 14% increase in the number of laws adopted by CEE countries in 2022. This can be reasoned by the fact that both post-covid recovery and the start of the Ukraine war motivated local legislators to adopt a larger number of acts governing both business and general environment.

The comparison between the number of laws adopted by extraordinary procedures, compared to regular ones, highlight 24.9% of the total number of laws adopted were passed by an extraordinary procedure – this number being higher for acts with direct impact on business (38.95%).

On average, 46.5% of laws had a direct impact on businesses, a result similar to pre-pandemic levels. Almost half of the adopted laws that had direct impact on the businesses covered general business topics (43.85%), while most affected sectors were services (13.59%) and finance (10.3%).

Centralisation of the legislative power into the hands of the Governments was especially noted in the case of legislation impacting businesses, as all analysed countries had less than 20% of acts, with an impact on business submitted by MPs in 2022. In Croatia, Hungary and Serbia none of the acts impacting businesses in previous year were submitted by MPs. Compared to pre-pandemic levels the number of legislative acts with an impact on business submitted by MPs halved in 2022.

The complete Grayling AcTrend 2022 report, with detailed information about number of laws adopted in specific countries, sectoral distribution and other relevant local specifics may be found here.

MiCA: A critical juncture in the EU-UK crypto race

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A cemented EU position on crypto

Last week, the EU Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour on the final wording of the Markets in Crypto Assets Bill (MiCA), with 517 supportive votes to a mere 38 against. Initially touted by the European Commission in 2020, the new legislation represents a global first in comprehensive measures aimed at regulating the cryptocurrency sector.

Primarily, the Bill impose a range of requirements on crypto providers, traders and token issuers in an attempt to reduce the risk associated with purchasing and exchanging digital tokens. This includes introducing new obligations around alerting potential investors to the risks associated with their services and entering into written agreements with clients. The majority of MiCA provisions will apply in just over twelve months’ time to provide industry with sufficient breathing room to adapt and demonstrate compliance. At that point, crypto platforms, traders and token issuers will face a series of fresh transparency, supervision of transactions, authorisations and disclosure requirements.

Under the Bill, the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) will receive powers to intervene or prohibit the continued activity of crypto providers if there is evidence to suggest they are not protecting investors, or that they are posing a threat to financial stability and market integrity. We can expect ESMA to publish secondary legislation that stems from MiCA in due course.

In the same week, European lawmakers also voted in favour of the Transfer of Funds regulation, which will introduce fresh stipulations on crypto providers to demonstrate customer identification in an attempt to pull the plug on money laundering.

The view from the UK

But what do latest developments mean for UK audiences? In the wake of the approval of MiCA, crypto players currently operating in the EU have been awarded greater levels of clarity by the European Parliament as to the shape that regulation will take moving forwards. The US and UK now find themselves playing catch up, as incoming EU regulations provide transparency and credibility to the sector at a time when it needs it most. The sector has been quick to welcome such clarity, with Ian Taylor, Chief Executive of CryptoUK, suggesting that MiCA “puts significant jurisdictional pressure” on the US and Britain to pass their own frameworks.

Despite legislation currently going through the UK Parliament to regulate the sector, namely via the Financial Services and Markets Bill (FSMB), the signing of legislation at the EU level has cast doubt over the ability of UK policymakers to lead from the front, calling the UK’s long-heralded place on the global crypto stage into question. Indeed, former UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, has cautioned that the latest step taken by the EU to bring in a robust regulatory framework for cryptocurrency could eclipse UK efforts to become a ‘global crypto hub’.

Historically, the UK Government has been keen to use the financial services sector to demonstrate post-Brexit dividends, heralding its newfound freedoms as a major win for industry and indeed the UK economy. Against that backdrop, the EU’s new offer of a more attractive environment for financial services firms to operate, grounded in an understanding of the specific regulations to expect, will be a particularly painful blow to the UK Government.

While industry voices have praised the EU for striking the right balance between freedom and restriction under the new package of measures, on the face of it, the significance of developments in the EU have not infiltrated the mainstream parliamentary or media debate, with no mention of MiCA in the past week by UK parliamentarians on Twitter and relatively limited coverage in the UK broadsheet papers. As the City Minister, Andrew Griffith MP, continues his heavy engagement programme with stakeholders on the issue and the FSMB prepares to enter its Report Stage in the House of Lords, UK policymakers working on crypto regulation appear to have met their match in their EU counterparts.

If you would like to understand more about the political and regulatory landscape in relation to crypto and the wider financial services sector, please contact Celia Clark at

Opportunities and Challenges in Shifting from Fossil Fuels to Renewables in Serbia

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Making the transition from fossil fuels and imported gas to more renewable forms of energy is not an easy task in any country, but when your share of coal fired electricity production is in the top six, with the likes of India and South Africa, the shift required is even greater. Added to the complexity are that your gas resources are from Russia and tackling climate change targets is all the harder when firewood remains a common source of domestic heating. These are the challenge that Serbia currently faces and one which I was pleased to explore recently with a range of experts at a British Serbian Chamber of Commerce event supported by Grayling.

Serbia needs to decarbonise its energy sector if it is to meet its climate change targets and meet international obligations to reduce thermal power generation and greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, it has set a clear goal to increase the share of renewables electricity production to around 40% by 2030.

Renewables potential
Serbia’s issues highlight some of the key challenges that many countries face across the world. On the face of it, Serbia has a lot to offer in terms of energy generation from alternative sources. It has a long history of hydroelectric, which is still the country’s main source of renewable power. It is also a favourable climate for solar power and there is scope for wind power, as well as improved energy efficiency and decarbonisation measures. There may even be scope for nuclear power, though there is a current moratorium on nuclear energy in the country. And, importantly for the rest of Europe, Serbia is a vital transit country for energy from Southeast Europe.

Yet the country’s nascent renewables sector is still restricted. Hydroelectric generation is in jeopardy due to drought conditions. And as the expert panel pointed out, while there’s not a problem with interest in developing renewable projects, most have been unable to start construction or generating because there is a need for clear market mechanisms and a lack of approved connections from renewables to the grid infrastructure since 2019.

The vital role of infrastructure and regulatory upgrades
On the regulatory side, the government’s energy and climate change plan have stalled over the past couple of years. However, there is now hope that public consultation might start again, opening the doors to a debate about what forms of energy Serbia should pursue and the share of renewable generation.

Panellists highlighted that Serbia’ electricity network is already quite robust and how upgrades to the infrastructure are planned but it needs to be readied for the connection of new renewable power sources. This is part of a wider programme of infrastructure works. The EU is currently building the Trans-Balkan Electricity Corridor, which should help integrate Serbia, Bosnia and North Macedonia into the wider European market. However, according to the Serbian electricity transmission system operator, EMS, new cross-border power lines are required across nearly all the country’s borders.

Gas supply remains a major issue in Serbia. Balkan Stream, which supplies Russian gas, was only opened in 2020 and the country remains heavily dependent on Russian gas. However, a new gas interconnector with Bulgaria will open an alternative source of liquified natural gas in the meanwhile while other gas pipelines can be developed to other nations in the future.

If Serbia, and countries that are similarly dependent on coal-fired power stations and Russian gas, are to make the transition to renewables and new energy sources, they need to invest in its energy infrastructure and provide a sound regulatory and market mechanism that energy companies can have confidence in. Serbia can benefit from new technological advances, such as battery storage and hydrogen, but it needs to ensure the basics are in place first. Beyond that, we should be assured that the strong Serbian sunshine, mountain streams and winds can do much of the rest.

For further information about how we can support your organization in navigating the European energy markets please contact Ross Laird, Director, specialising in energy markets at

Balancing Innovation and Responsibility: Examining the UK’s Light-Touch Approach to AI Regulation

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Since generative artificial intelligence models like ChatGPT and Bard hit the mainstream at the beginning of this year, governments around the world are grappling with the complex question of how to regulate AI.

Developments are coming thick and fast. This week, MEPs working on the EU’s landmark Artificial Intelligence Act published an open letter, promising to introduce new laws that will curtail the powers of ‘very powerful AI’, ensuring instead that it will develop in a ‘human-centric, safe, and trustworthy direction’. Last week, the US Commerce Department launched a public consultation that will seek to understand what policies will help businesses, government and the public be able to trust that AI systems ‘work as claimed, and without causing harm’. Alan Davidson, Assistant Commerce Secretary, said that while his government believed in the promise of AI, there are concerns that AI was not being rolled out safely. In China, new laws will require companies using generative AI to submit their technology to government regulators for a security assessment.

A different direction: Assessing the UK’s approach to AI regulation

The proposals from the US, Europe and China throw the approach taken by the UK government into sharp relief. It has now been almost a month since the long-awaited launch of the UK’s AI white paper, which set out that the government has no plans for new legislation, or to create a new regulator to oversee AI in its entirety. Instead, existing regulators including Ofcom, the ICO and the CMA will be encouraged to ensure AI companies follow a set of five core principles, including safety and security, transparency, fairness, accountability, and contestability. The government stresses that this will ‘help create the right environment for artificial intelligence to flourish safely in the UK’ whilst avoiding ‘heavy-handed legislation which could stifle innovation’.

However, with other countries putting more robust measures in place, will this light touch approach hold out?

AI experts have raised concerns that the UK’s approach carries ‘significant gaps’. The Ada Lovelace Institute criticised the White Paper for not setting new legal obligations on regulators, developers, or users of AI systems, with just a minimal duty on regulators expected in future. It noted that the approach raised ‘more questions than it answers on cutting-edge, general-purpose AI systems like GPT-4 and Bard, and how AI will be applied in contexts like recruitment, education and employment, which are not comprehensively regulated…  The government’s timeline of a year or more for implementation will leave risks unaddressed just as AI systems are being integrated at pace into our daily lives, from search engines to office suite software.’

Looking to the future

With the election looming in 2024, how would a Labour government approach AI regulation? Upon the release of the White Paper, Lucy Powell criticised the government for ‘reinforcing gaps in [the] existing regulatory system and making the system hugely complex for businesses and citizens to navigate’. She has also, however, described herself as a ‘tech optimist’ and called regulation a means to ‘enable good practice’.

Labour is currently developing its approach to tech and the wider digital economy, which will be set out in a paper due for publication in May. Until then, we cannot yet be certain about the approach that Labour will take. But one thing we can safely assume is that the AI landscape, and how we interact with it, will have evolved significantly by the time the next election rolls around.

It has, after all, taken just a few months from its launch in November for ChatGPT to become thoroughly embedded into our online lives, being used by millions every day to do everything from writing recipes and workout plans, to drafting complex pieces of code. It is continually advancing and will soon be integrated into all Microsoft Office tools. The most recent version, ChatGPT4, is even faster and smarter than its predecessor, and capable of more advanced tasks like suggesting recipes from a picture of an open fridge and using a rough sketch in a notepad as a basis for writing code for a website.

OpenAI (just one of the many companies working in the AI space) is already working on ChatGPT5. Early speculation has suggested that this new model could reach Artificial General Intelligence, at which point it will be, on average, smarter than humans. While the Co-Founder of Open AI, Sam Altman has said that AGI will ‘benefit all of humanity’; others are less sure.

This includes Altman’s former colleague and fellow Co-Founder of OpenAI, Elon Musk, who recently signed an open letter along with over 1,000 other AI experts and researchers, calling for a moratorium on the development of large language models like ChatGPT and Google’s Bard.  “Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive, and their risks will be manageable”, the letter says, adding that if researchers do not pause their work on AI models more powerful than GPT-4, then “governments should step in”.

While we shouldn’t expect an immediate shift in the position taken by government towards AI regulation, organisations working in and with AI should expect continuing and growing tension between the government’s desire for a light-touch regulatory approach to AI and the need to prevent consumer harm, and ongoing debate across the political and media sphere about AI ethics and the appropriate regulatory approach.

Recent debates around online safety have shown there are lessons to be learned from a failure to act proactively – with companies who did not sufficiently safeguard children from online harms suffering reputational damage as a result. From a reputational and regulatory standpoint, organisations working in AI should therefore consider taking steps to self-regulate, both to protect their own reputation, and to comply with potential future regulations.

If you’d like to understand more about the political and regulatory landscape in relation to AI and the wider technology sector, then please contact Vic Wilkinson at