This blog was written and posted on Feb 18th, 2018:
Last Monday I came across a Twitter exchange between two prominent Brexit supporters. Not politicians, but well-known members of the commentariat.
One of them accepted what the UK government had signed up to as regards the avoidance of a border in Ireland in Article 59 of last December’s “Article 50, Phase 1” agreement. However, she believed that the UK government had been trapped into doing so and should now actively be looking for a way out. Welch on the deal, in deed if not in word.
The second one denied that what had been agreed had been agreed. The interpretation of Article 49 by Brussels (AKA EU27) and Dublin was simply wrong. London could never have agreed such terms.
Both, in their own way, were saying that Article 49 put the UK government in an impossible position of promising mutually incompatible things to the EU27 (and Dublin), the DUP and the hardline Brexiters in the UK.
Truth may be the first casualty of war, but it can never be a casualty of negotiations, and denying or reneging on the truth was what the two Brexiters were about.
While, as we discussed last week in this BEERG Briefing, a large part of your leverage in negotiations derives from clearly knowing your BATNA, your best alternative to a negotiated agreement, the actuality of negotiations is conducted by real, living, breathing people and they only have one card to play in discussions. Their reputation for trustworthiness and honesty. The other party must be able to believe that you mean what you say and when you say you can deliver, you can deliver.