UK Liberal-Democrat MEP Sharon Bowles and high-ranking Commission official Jonathan Faull have topped EurActiv's list of the 40 Britons with the greatest influence on EU policy, compiled by a panel of 15 European affairs specialists from London and Brussels.

EurActiv’s UK40, released today (14 November), shows that officials and politicians relatively unfamiliar to a British audience top the lists of those who pull the policy strings on EU affairs.

Both Bowles, the chair of the Parliament's economic and monetary affairs committee, and Faull, the European Commission’s director-general regulating financial services, are playing leading roles in reforms driven by the financial crisis.

List toppers influencing banking union

Faull is responsible for steering the Commission’s ambitious banking union proposals through the EU executive, whilst Bowles is one of the key MEPs scrutinising the proposals and attempting to reconcile them with the interests of London’s powerful financial sector.

“Current circumstances and the fact that financial services are vital to the City and the UK no doubt lies behind my ranking in this list,” Bowles said.

Similarly lesser-known figures in the top 10 include Richard Corbett (4th), the advisor of Council President Herman Van Rompuy, and the Commission’s director-generals for  energy and digital affairs, Philip Lowe (6th) and Robert Madelin (7th) respectively.

The much-more familiar Foreign Secretary William Hague is 8th on the list, and Prime Minister David Cameron 9th.

Catherine Ashton - as foreign policy chief, the EU's highest-paid female politician and nominally the UK’s most senior representative in the European capital - was in fifth place.

MEPs are largest single group in list

“This list puts a new light on Britain’s relations with Europe," said Sir Julian Priestley, the former secretary-general of the European Parliament and chair of the jury that determined the ranking. "It shows often unsung, sometimes unknown Britons at work exercising real influence in Europe, shaping policies, making a strong and constructive contribution to Europe's future.” 

Members of the European Parliament were the largest cohort in the list, bagging eight of the 40 places. They include Malcolm Harbour (3rd), the influential Tory leader of the internal markets committee, and federalist Liberal-Democrat Andrew Duff (10th), and Nigel Farage (34th), who leads the UK Independence Party, which calls for UK withdrawal from the EU.

Loudest are not the most influential

Politicians and officials did not wholly dominate the list, however, which also included the chairman of the Financial Services Authority, Lord Adair Turner (14th); Financial Times editor Lionel Barber (17th); and Charles Grant (32nd), the director of the Centre for European Reform, a think tank.

“Carrying on about Europe is not the same as carrying influence in Europe,” Sir Stephen Wall, Britain’s former permanent representative to the EU, told guests attending a launch event for the UK40 held in London’s Europe House.

“‘Un-famous’ they may be, but they help make the European weather - and it’s our weather, too,” said Wall, who was deputy leader of the judges.