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Brexit: Negotiation skills are key to securing a good deal

Adam Merrett

29 July 2016

With her new Cabinet in place, new Prime Minister, Theresa May, faces a period of tough negotiations as she leads the nation in to independence from Europe. What happens next is unclear and it could take years for the process to begin – what we do know is that a sharp set of negotiation skills are needed in order for Britain, and Europe, to achieve the best deal.

What Britain wants

The EU Referendum sent a clear message that British people wanted to leave Europe, but also wanted some control over free movement and trade. Theresa May has hinted recently that she will be keeping “an open mind” for negotiations in relation to trade and goods and services, but either way “Brexit means Brexit”.

What Europe wants

EU leaders openly admitted to wanting the UK to remain, so the vote to leave was met with a lot of disappointment. Angela Merkel said the vote was “deeply regrettable” and marks a “watershed moment” for the EU. It could mean that the remaining EU leaders harbour ill feeling, but European Council President, Donald Tusk, made it clear that this was not the time for knee-jerk reactions and that the preservation of the unity of the EU must continue. There is concern that Britain’s exit has fuelled anti-EU parties in other countries, so the contagious element from the vote leave result is also high on EU leaders’ agendas.

Negotiating tactics

There are already grounds for disagreement here and Brexit has in itself presented a situation that many professional mediators like me are all too familiar with: What do each of the parties want and how can they reach an amicable conclusion? For both the UK and Europe, it will be the power of negotiation that will enable resolution. But, we need to keep in mind that for Brexit, those solutions are buried among an historical union. Our trade deals as part of the EU have grown increasingly complex and untangling ourselves from the web of regulation will be a lengthy process. It will also require a large team as Britain will be negotiating solely with 27 remaining members of the Union, some 596 trade negotiators, who must approve by majority.

Leading by initiatives

The sheer scale of the project at large is problematic on its own, so what sort of skills are we looking at for a killer negotiator? Namely:

  1. Clear thoughts as to the UK’s own trade interests and what they want from any deal, reflected upon the wants and needs of the British public
  2. Planning and preparation that focuses on the above objectives, including;
  3. What exactly is up for negotiation, and what are grounds for compromise
  4. A water-tight negotiating team
  5. Strong initiatives and leadership, keeping communications open at all times as any sign of disunity could be exploited by opponents

The UK will also need to identify all potential sources of leverage and potential allies with Europe.

What next?

As a mediator, I am interested in how the two parties will approach the same issue from two different angles and time will tell how it will unfold. Just like any ordinary situation relating to mediation and negotiation, the solution rests with the parties and it will be up to them to pursue the right course of action.

From an industry perspective in light of the Brexit vote, elements of Alternative Dispute Resolution, such as mediation, could be subject to change. Within the EU there are a number of mechanisms that support cross-border mediation and the UK has complied with EU Directive just like other member states. There are further elements outside of this relating to parties’ rights, for example, confidentiality and privileges, that could be up for review.

How can WK help?

It is unlikely that these regulations would be repealed, but the team at Wilkins Kennedy is keeping up to date with developments. If you have an enquiry relating to mediation and how it can help you, why not get in touch with Wilkins Kennedy today to see how we can help?

About Adam Merrett

Adam Merrett

Adam joined Wilkins Kennedy in 1997 and is the Managing Partner of Orpington. His extensive experience enables him to provide an imaginative and credible approach to the work he is involved with. Adam is dedicated to supporting his clients and providing them with a valuable source of guidance. Adam belongs to the Members Academy of Experts (MAE), is a member of the Expert Witness Institute (MEWI), and is accredited by them as being a qualified dispute resolver (QDR) specialising in mediation and expert determination.

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