Where is it possible to begin on the Brexit saga ? And saga it has become. It seems extraordinary that our politicians don’t seem to grasp the fundamentals of negotiation. Their preferred option is, seemingly, to just butt heads and pretend to be in the driving seat and completely ignore the essential issues around them. This blog has long argued for a dramatic change in the negotiating team, a cross-party, non- partisan approach that puts this country’s well being at the heart of any negotiation - and whilst I concede that this is most unlikely to happen we can but stare with incredulity over our attempts at negotiation with the EU.
If we accept the premise that a trade deal (hopefully a reasonable one) is the core purpose of the negotiations and that there is a price to pay for getting this then this should be the bedrock of our negotiating position. We want Brexit, there’s a legal mandate to deliver this, and we know we’d much sooner have a favourable trade deal than resorting to WTO trade terms (though I agree with the principle and action of having a no deal position prepared for) so we know that, like everything else in this world, there is a sum of money to lay on the table and make the EU salivate a little. This is not to say that we should just put some huge dollop of cash in front of these misguided souls, we need a properly accounted for summary of what we get for such a gesture, and we need a statement of intent and commitment that for the appropriate sum of money we will get the trade deal we seek. If not delivered, then we pay the EU nothing beyond the much smaller, legal commitment. It is that which we should be negotiating for. The secondary trivia can come at a later date but unless we secure that favourable trade deal we shall be cutting off our noses to spite our face. Yet, without the deal we should not be afraid of the future, for there is plenty of world out there that we can do business with, but what our negotiators seem never to appreciate is that we want an EU deal - albeit at a price - but at the same time the freedom once we are outside of the EU to secure other trade deals throughout the world. That is what we would, de facto, be paying for. Global trade opportunity.
So, we should consider what this is worth to us. All negotiations are a trade off about what various parties want from an agreement and we are foolish to imagine there is not a hefty price tag associated with getting both an acceptable trade agreement with the EU and the freedom to create national deals elsewhere in the world. The caveat is that we must be careful. The EU are a wily bunch of desperado’s and before any money changes hands there should be a legally binding and enforceable legislative arrangement in both the EU parliament and our own about what the price includes. That our negotiators are evidently blind to the whole concept of negotiation for this outcome is appalling and harrowing to observe in the extreme. Which does make you wonder what the government’s real objectives are, doesn’t it ?
Enough for today - unfortunately, I don’t believe our negotiators or the government behind them have the wit, guile or resolve to pull this off. I’m opening a bottle and toasting Britain - God help us !