Negotiation Consulting & Training


Thoughts on Deals and Conflicts

How to stop a “no-deal Brexit”? There is a bit of a clue in the question

Good negotiation advice can be simple. It can even seem trivial. In last week´s blog I suggested that the EU should build the UK a golden bridge. Most readers probably agreed. Some may have thought: "Do´h! Of course!!"

But "simple" is not the same as "easy". Let´s look at Brexit again for another (depressing) example. Yesterday the House of Commons voted against the withdrawal agreement negotiated by the UK Government and the EU. It was the largest defeat for a sitting government in history (432 to 202 votes). In the run-up to the vote, one question became more and more pressing. It made headlines in The Economist (“Can a no-deal Brexit be stopped?”) and the BBC (“No-deal Brexit: Can Parliament stop it?”). I believe that the lead paragraph captures the essence of the debate: “There's a big problem facing members of Parliament who want to avoid a no-deal Brexit. They can't just show there is a majority in the House of Commons against no deal - they need to prove there is a majority in favour of an alternative outcome.”

This is undoubtedly true. And it misses the point. A majority in favour of an alternative outcome is necessary- but it is secondary. The big problem facing the members of Parliament is not choosing their favorite outcome, but choosing among the available alternatives. These cannot be found in Westminster. They live on the other side of the Channel. Yet the question of what the EU wants, needs, or favors, is still largely absent from the debate.

The only way to stop a no-deal Brexit (short of stopping Brexit itself), is, of course, to make a deal. “Step to their side” is another simple piece of advice by William Ury is: (Getting Past No. Negotiation in Difficult situations).” You think this sounds trivial? Clearly, it is not.


Postscript: Not everybody agrees. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn now says that he won’t meet with prime minister until she takes no-deal Brexit off the table.

How can one side guarantee that the other side will agree?

Georg Berkel