By Phoebe Cooke
Britain is at risk of losing even more influence in Europe unless it addresses the decline of UK nationals working for EU institutions, an influential group of MPs has said.
A foreign affairs committee report suggests Britain is facing a sustained loss of influence in Europe because so few of its citizens are finding work in key institutions.
"It's clear that the UK is missing a trick when it comes to participation in the civil service side of the European Union," committee member Ming Campbell told Politics.co.uk.
"Although employees of the EU are impartial, there is no doubt that the commitment of any member state both in numbers and in quality to the administration carries a great deal of weight."
Despite boasting 12.5% of the EU's population, the number of UK nationals working in the European Commission has dropped by a dramatic 24% in the last seven years, with the figure currently standing at 4.6% of the total, against France's 9.7%.
The figure has also fallen in the Council of the EU and from 6.2% to 5.8% in the increasingly-powerful European Parliament.
The decline is partly due to the retirement of the officials who first started working for the then-European Economic Community (ECC) when the UK joined 40 years ago. The current rate of new entrants is not plugging the gap left by the retiring officials.
Britons' much-lamented weakness in language skills meant they often struggled to match up to the stiff competition from their European counterparts. A lack of awareness about the process was also cited.
The pass rate among UK candidates is currently roughly the same as for the EU as a whole, but this too is on a downward trend.
The Committee was also "disconcerted" to find that the Civil/Diplomatic Service European Fast Stream programme had had no impact on the rates of UK entrants since its launch in 2010.
The FAC makes a number of suggestions for improving Britain's outlook, saying that "high-calibre UK diplomats" should undertake secondments into the European External Action Service (EEAS).