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Negotiation - how not to do it whatever side you are on

With the hapless Mrs May, apparently The EU head negotiator Msr Barnier privately wished to meet the UK’s PM  halfway during the transition discussion.

His rationale was to give Mrs May some breathing space but he was shot down by the Germans and the French who were unwilling to assist the stranded and besieged Mrs May, arguing that they were not ready to reward her political risks at home. A very harsh and hard line indeed but in the context of a negotiation does it make any sense, especially as they knew there would be collateral damage to themselves, albeit perhaps unquantifiable a that point.

"We are not here to save the Tory party" was their rejoinder to Barnier, as if he really fancied to that himself. This train of thought may possibly have had some merit within the context of a domestic political wrangle but to this day I cannot see what they thought they would achieve, although that is beyond the scope of this blog.

With the benefit of 20:20 hindsight we can see that it achieved a hard-line British PM leading a stonking majority of 80 which gives him carte blanche from a political aspect in any subsequent negotiations.

I would love to have been a fly on the fall in corridors of power in these countries as the results filtered through from the UK in the wee small hours of 13th December.

Negotiation is about “Win:Win” or else it comes back to bite you - don't know where and you don't know when, but comeback it will ! It’s almost a ground rule of negotiating and its been proven time and time again.

The EU never seems to learn lessons but for them the main thing is that its leaders and civil servants keep their snouts in the trough. Sometimes you have to step back and strip out your personal bias or won feelings on something to arrive a credible plan.

Which leads me onto the second book.

You are all familiar with the author and one can certainly see that he is trying to invoke the spirit of the great elder statesman of our country in his dealings with whatever crisis is coming his way.

Early in the book Johnson vividly recalls how many in the British establishment were all in favour of cutting a deal with the monster madman Hitler.He had used the Italians to probe the British thinking about opening talks. For many of the toffs, as he so wonderfully describes them, the fear of Bolshevism was so great that they foolish thought Nazism was the obvious antidote. Delusional to say the least but the hysteria clouded the logic. Appeasement does not work, never has and never will.

Many within Whitehall had deluded themselves into believing that they could make concessions such as ceding the fleet or other strategic assets and live in happy co-existence with the Nazi regime while the British Empire continued to putter along in harmony with the Nazi masterplan.

Hitler and his evil cabal must have been laughing up their sleeves as the British vacillated and wavered as to how they should respond to his indirect overtures to open talks.

Churchill stood as a lone rallying voice and essentially told the Nazis that we would fight to the last drop of blood to defend ourselves. He had the sense of conviction to understand that you could not even enter in talks, however exploratory they might have been – you have to stand firm. Very firm.

You all know how the story ended.

The point is that the Nazis were simply not capable offering any deal that could remotely work for us because their masterplan involved total domination and they made no secret of it.

You cannot enter into a meaningful negotiation when your position is one of total intransigence or the inability to offer anything meaningful to your counterparty

It beggars belief that those who were supposed to be our leaders were naïve enough to believe that a deal could have worked but at least one lone voice had what it takes to recognise this and respond from position of strength, at least from the point of view of our resolve even if it ultimately required outside assistance.

One can always capitulate at a later stage in a negotiation.

Just remember that you don’t negotiate with a brick wall, however strong you may be in relation to  your opponent.

About the author Norman

I’m Norman Younger BA(Hons) FCCA MCIArb and on this blog I’m going to share over 20 years of professional and business experience at the sharp end of small business in the UK, one of the world’s most enterprising nations. As a professionally qualified accountant I have experience advising start up micro enterprises and multi million pound turnover firms. During this time I have owned several business and gained valuable insight into all aspects of the day to day operations covering everything from staffing to marketing. I established and am currently a working trustee of a charity that helps people find sustainable employment and supports entrepreneurs in getting their feet on the business ladder and climbing higher.

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