A public letter from Dr Karl Mackie CBE to the press
30 June 2016
So is it “my way” all the way for European Negotiation?
Frank Sinatra had the excuse of talking about personal life choices for embracing the philosophy of ‘My Way’. However it is bemusing to hear leading politicians talk about Leave negotiations with the EU as if the norm is to get exactly what you want in a difficult negotiation with no pain. As a regular mediator of business impasse conflicts, I am afraid that the norm once you are outside the goodwill space is more often one of helping leaders craft better ‘Lose-Lose’ outcomes to improve on no deal. We may want to reconsider the question of which space we prefer to work with before we go further.
Those who think the Referendum ended the argument and gave us clear direction, have also missed three other negotiation realities apart from the need for mutuality and the constrained space for this which we will find in adversarial negotiations. First, we clearly have a deeply fragmented nation and Parliament for our negotiation team to report to, which will come back to bite the UK negotiation team in various ways. (The fact that the team is currently nowhere in sight tells us a lot.) Labour’s internal wranglings are small beer compared to the current UK’s division lines and lack of preparedness for working through serious detail. Second, the composition of that negotiation team and its channels of communication back to its constituencies, can significantly alter the nature of outcome achieved. Finally, the passage of time and intervening events always come to influence what appears to really matter in ultimate deals, and we appear to be on a path to stretching out our negotiations, no doubt wisely so.
Certainly this should not be a rushed process but it does not need to wait for a new Prime Minister. Let’s usher in a Big European Dialogue about our place in the Europe and the world, whilst markets still reverberate, and ebb and flow. If we can recreate goodwill and common purpose of exploring what can work best for our European homeland, we may lay the foundations not just for more informed negotiation, but even reconciliation of our current internal divisions in the UK and Europe. Europeans and Britons alike deserve a better and more civilised dialogue, and also deserve capable leadership able to make this happen through a positive and open negotiation mindset. I believe ‘My Way’ only represents a small bandwidth on the effective leadership spectrum as well as being a limited negotiation starting point.
Dr Karl Mackie CBE
Chief Executive, CEDR