Article 50, Brexit, British Government, Negotiating, Theresa May

4 Ts are needed in #Brexit Talks: Timescale; Table; Team & Truth

This blog was written and posted on Feb 18th, 2018:

BELGIUM-BRITAIN-EU-BREXITLast 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.

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Brexit, Irish border, Michel Barnier, Negotiating, Theresa May

#Brexit: The UK Government’s BATNA Dilemma

Koji Tsuruoaka, Japan's ambassador to Britain, speaks outside 10 Downing Street after a meeting between Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May and senior members of Japanese companies, in LondonIt seems to us that a great deal of press and other comments about the supposed disunity within the UK cabinet about Brexit frames it slightly wrong. The cabinet is not split over what it wants from the Brexit discussions. It knows exactly what it wants.

The problem arises over what to do when it doesn’t get what it wants. and it already knows that you can’t always get what you want. The real problem is that the cabinet, in the language of professional negotiators, cannot agree on its BATNA, its Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement.

The acronym BATNA was coined by the US academics, Fisher and Ury, and became common currency among negotiators after they published their classic on negotiations, Getting to Yes, in 1981. The concept is simple. Before you meet the other party in a negotiation you need to work out in detail what your objectives are and, as important if not more so, what are you options if the deal you want is not available. In a word, what are your alternatives?

Knowing your BATNA is critical to a successful negotiation. It means that you can begin discussions safe in the knowledge that the discussions may not be the only game in town. If the terms on offer are not acceptable, you know beforehand what you can do. You are not locked in. Not only does having alternatives increase you leverage, it is also psychologically important. It allows you to make it clear to the other party that your are not a prisoner of the talks, you are not in a corner, you have choices.

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Brexit, British Government, Macron, Negotiating, Theresa May, UK Labour Party

#Macron says: “Be My Guest” while UK’s two main parties are gripped by #Brexit cakism

This piece was written on January 19th 2018.

_99662678_selfieWith just three words, “Be my Guest”, French President, Emmanuel Macron, on a visit to the UK this week, made it clear that the EU would not bend or break its rules to accommodate the UK in any post-Brexit deal.

“In” means in, and that means abiding by the EU’s rules. “Out” means out. And the choice was the UK’s to make. No doubt, a wry smile crossed the face of the spirit of General De Gaulle, wherever he may be.

As the Europeans see it, Brexit isn’t difficult or complicated. In fact, it is fairly straightforward. It is UK politics that are difficult and that are making Brexit hard for the UK.

We believe that the EU see Brexit as follows:

1.       Following a vote on June 23, 2016, some nine months later, in March 2017, the UK wrote to the European Union saying that it would be leaving the EU at midnight on March 29th, 2019. Continue reading

Article 50, Brussels, Michel Barnier, Negotiating, Theresa May

You Can’t Always Get What You Want #Brexit

Written on Sunday December 17, 2017

Hammond BoJoOn Friday (Dec 15), the EU Council agreed that “sufficient progress” had been made to date to allow the exit talks between the EU and the UK to be expanded to include discussions on the “framework” of the future relationship between the UK and the EU.

This BEERG Brexit Briefing argues that, just as the EU dictated terms in phase 1, it will continue to dictate terms as the process continues because both the dynamics of the process and the hard economic realities favour the EU.

Why? Because as the Dubliners of my youth would have put it: “Beggars can’t be choosers”. In EU terms, it is the UK, and not the EU, that is the “demandeur” and demandeurs “can’t always get what they want”.

Remember, the UK decided to leave the EU. It was not asked to leave nor was it expelled. Generally in life you cannot unilaterally decide to leave a job, business organisation or sporting association, and then try to insist on negotiating the terms under which you will leave. Leave means leave. Leave does not mean “lets compromise and meet in the middle”.

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Article 50, Brexit, Brussels, Juncker, Michel Barnier, Negotiating, Theresa May

Not so Much a Marathon… More a Triathlon #Brexit

Written on Friday Dec 8th:

may junckerEarly this morning, Friday, December 8, the EU and the UK announced that they had reached terms on the three Article 50 issues which cover: the UK’s ongoing financial obligations to the EU; the rights of EU citizens in the UK; and issues relating to Ireland.

The EU Commission said that the agreement reached was sufficient to allow it to recommend to the EU Council (heads of government) next week that the talks proceed to phase 2, namely discussions on the “framework” of the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

Reading the various documents that have been released today it is hard not to come to the conclusion that the UK appears to have accepted the EU’s terms on all three issue. Outstanding payments from the UK to the EU are not conditional on any sort of future trade deal and will continue long into the future as commitments made by the EU28, of which the UK was a part, fall due. On citizens’ rights the European Court will have a role in defending the rights of EU citizens resident in the UK for eight years after Brexit, a political lifetime. On Ireland, the default position is no hard border.

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Article 50, Brexit, British Government, Irish border, Northern Ireland, Theresa May

That #Brexit Winding Road may be a Cul-de-Sac

This post was written on Monday Dec 4th, 2017.

may-tusk-junckerThere was a time, before the Internet and social media, when politicians could say very different things to very different audiences and get away with it. Not so today. To coin a phrase, what you say in Brussels is known in Belfast before you finish your sentence.

As I write this, at 18:30 Paris time, reports of what actually happened in Brussels today are still somewhat unclear. But it does appear that all parties thought a deal was done until the UK said no at the last minute. Speaking to Irish radio, the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), Leo Varadkar said:

“The U.K. had agreed a text on the border that met our concerns … I was then contacted by [Juncker and Tusk] and confirmed Ireland agreement to that text… I am surprised and disappointed that the U.K. Govt is not in a position to agree to what was approved today”

Reports suggest that the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said it could not support the agreed text as it appeared to split Northern Ireland economically from the rest of the UK as Northern Ireland would, to all extents and purposes, still be in the EU’s single market and customs union while the rest of the UK would not.

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Article 50, Brexit, David Davis, GDPR, Irish border, Michel Barnier, Theresa May

Still a (very) Long and Winding #Brexit Road Ahead

This Briefing was written on 3rd Dec 2017

7EEC154E-1C26-4BA9-BD46-6E7E326308E2As we write this Briefing, early on Sunday Dec 3, it would appear that the EU and the UK are moving towards a position where the EU Council (heads of government) at its next meeting on December 14/15 will be able to declare “sufficient progress” in the Article 50 discussions to date to allow them to move on to the next stage, which will focus on the “framework” of the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

However, as one diplomat put it, until we see what has been agreed “on paper” rather than “in the papers” it is wise to withhold judgement. But it does seem that the logjam on citizens’ rights has been broken by the UK conceding an ongoing role for the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in upholding the rights of EU citizens resident in the UK after Brexit.

The UK has also agreed to meet all its outstanding financial obligations to the EU, estimated at around €50 billion net, while accepting that this money does not buy a future trade deal of any type, even if, for the moment, UK cabinet ministers are not exactly making that clear to MPs in the House of Commons. Continue reading