It is Obvious

Chris Rick has got altogether too much to say


Posted by chrisrick13 on October 31, 2017

It is obvious: we have some very good negotiators who can deal with the EU and Brexit

I have no idea how to become a good negotiator. Even people who have a track record of good negotiations do not always do it well.

My approach is to learn the tricks that other negotiators might play on me and to try to avoid doing things that might weaken my stance. The simple and obvious mistakes can easily be avoided.

For example never negotiate by giving. A good negotiator will take the gift and simply carry on from where they were. That is certainly a mistake that the UK has made a couple of times already.

Never accept a first offer is an easy one. You can accept a first offer if you want to annoy the other side but later on you will find yourself annoyed as well.

Another tactic is to question everything. Do not assume or automatically accept. For example we have two years to negotiate an exit from the EU. Why? Does anybody know how long such a negotiation ought to take? Somebody pulled 2 years out of a hat 40 years ago in a very different world to today. The classic example of that negotiating is the Vietcong in Paris with the USA. They spent a long time negotiating seating positions and not much time negotiating anything else. The Brexit negotiations are not at the sorting-out-the-seats stage yet. Is two years going to be enough?

This comes to time pressure. You can put pressure on the other side with time. “The offer is until close of business today”. Oh yeah. Go in tomorrow and tell them if they can do yesterday’s deal you might want to put your hand in your pocket. They always find some way to extend the time. A lot of people rush to buy today though.

A lot of negotiation is about the strength of your place or your perceived strength and how the other side views that ‘strength’. One of the ways to acquire strength is to work out your BATNA: Best Alternative To No Agreement. When you have worked it out you might be happy enough. You might be dismayed in which case you will negotiate away from there. You have to work it out. If there is no deal then this is what we will have.

I do wonder if the government has worked out a BATNA. There are plenty of countries doing very nicely that are not in the EU. We’ll work under WTO rules with the EU. Some things will be worse and some will be better. We don’t know as it has not been done before. Just maybe we’ll have a lot of pain and come out the other side in better shape?

The BATNA can be a hidden source of strength or you can tell the other side. Whatever it is they will have worked it out and considered the options. However you will have done the same for them. What is the EU’s BATNA? This is a fine point as there are those running the EU – a small band of unelected politicians – and the people of Europe. If the UK leaves and a few years later rises from the ashes that will definitely be the end of the EU. Perhaps the leaders see that and want some sort of deal where the UK leaves but has many of the benefits of membership. A full exit will not actually happen and the risk goes away.

Another tactic is the full deal. It is not done in bits. The negotiation is perhaps done that way but it is for a whole deal at the end. There is no agreement to pay the EU a certain amount at the front of the negotiation. Simply fall back to your BATNA. You can insist on something ludicrous: 20p. Perhaps you can get the EU down to a very low number before you move on. One that you are very happy with. Time pressure is in operation. I wonder. We contributed to the EU for all the time we were in it. Surely some of that money has bought us something. Which bit of the Eiffel Tower is now ours? We can have the top 5% and stick it on top of the Blackpool tower? We make a ludicrous offer back to show how stupid we consider the idea of agreeing a payment up front is.

There is a lot to consider from a negotiating standpoint without even considering what the negotiation concerns.

It is obvious: we have some very good negotiators who can deal with the EU and Brexit so why not use them?


2 Responses to “BATNA”

  1. Mark said

    Article 50 is part of the Lisbon Treaty, which came into effect in 2009, not 40 years ago. And was ratified by the UK. We pressed the button in the full knowledge there was a 2-year deadline.

    The main problem in getting a ‘good deal’ is defining what a good deal is. That’s not easy when you are negotiating from an ideological position, rather than a logical one.

    You have said yourself (IIRC) that you don’t care what the cost is, you want to ‘regain sovereignty’.
    I’m not seeking to revisit the argument, only to illustrate that it’s simply not possible to apply logcal negotiating strategies when at least one side (and possibly both) have overriding ideological imperatives.

    Regardless of your viewpoint, surely it’s obvious that the UK’s negotiating efforts have been utterly pathetic. David Davis is a waste of rations.

    If only we could deploy some good negotiators.

  2. I agree with all that and could write another 100 pages.

    Surprised article 50 is so young.

    I think the biggest factor is that if you cannot explain the other side’s actions then you are missing information. That is always the case with government but (I hope that) there is much going on here that we are unaware of.

    What I find interesting is that there are a lot of turkeys queueing up to vote for Christmas.

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