If David Davis and his team want a knockout punch, they need to transform their approach to negotiations. And here’s how, writes Peter Divey
The UK negotiators are in desperate need of help. They have already conceded the bathwater and the baby to the EU, with every likelihood of more goodies to follow. The upper limit for offerings seems so colossally high that it is not yet in view. The EU will continue to press because they have not yet been rebuffed.
The EU do not negotiate as such. They set up stout barriers. Then they march you into a corner and wear you down with complex and gnawing side issues. You run out of time and stamina, then you collapse and yield. The EU do not act in good faith, there is only blunt force and raw power. But a skilled boxer can defeat a puncher.
It is a simple and transparent process. Used by the EU forever. And as with others it is bamboozling and crushing the UK into basic errors and needless concessions.
But there is hope yet for a more balanced outcome. Because nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. The EU use this as a pressure point, a weapon. But the enlightened can turn this very weapon against the EU.
Let’s examine the EU’s demands, ultimatums and threats one by one. They are often revealing of weaknesses inherent in the other sides position. Why is this so important to them?
First, the UK needs to fundamentally alter its position. The “No Deal” option is badly used as a fall back threat. Turn it around. Explain to the EU that this is our starting position and that they should kindly explain how they intend to offer a better proposition than WTO terms for accessing the UK’s large and valuable market. This immediately offsets one of the EU’s favourite cramping tactics as time pressure then bears down on the EU side. It should be made clear that any tariffs they erect can be mirrored by the UK. No money need be offered. As with Canada, the marketplace in and of itself is the prize.
The Irish Border is a smoke screen. It is merely cover to hide the need for unedifying begging for money by the EU. The border situation cannot be solved by the UK because it is a foreign country. There will be a hard border unless the EU decides otherwise and the UK should immediately stop wasting excessive time. State a preference then move on. The Irish Republic will also have no say, they will do as their EU masters command. Which is why they are so noisy. The EU let them off the lead to harry at the UK’s ankles from time to time. Ignore the nipping.
On citizens rights, the EU wants the UK to accept ECJ oversight even when Brexit is finalised. Turn it down flat, especially as British citizens would have lesser status under such a set-up. Would the EU permit a reciprocal approach with the UK Supreme Court holding sway on the Continent? The EU have yet to match the UK offer on rights. Move on until they do. Call the EU out when they are stalling. Fight the PR battle just as hard as they do.
The mirage of EU “values” is laughably transparent. The EU wants the UK to “shadow” the EU’s values so that the UK cannot set up any “immoral” tax or trading advantages that leaving the stifling EU would allow. The EU can’t have departed members surging ahead, demonstrating the restrictive practices of their “open” market. Not a good look.
The EU are not demanding money, they are begging. Act accordingly.
Start with WTO rules as the default and eliminate the time pressure.
Minimise Irish border haggling as the UK has no say regarding the Republic.
Wait for the EU to match the UK’s offer on citizens’ rights. Refuse ECJ demands.
Deny requests for EU values “shadowing”. This bird is no longer caged.
Fight the media and PR battle as hard as the EU.
No more Mr Nice Guy. Match the EU low blow for low blow.
There you have it, my negotiating guide. I commend it to the UK negotiating team. I am willing to travel to Brussels with the team to support them. All citizens should be willing to step up when duty calls. No harm in saving tens of billions of pounds. It will cover my airfare and accommodation costs. Will they call? There is one twist in the tail yet. The MEPs will veto any deal, because they can. Verhofstadt’s moment in the sun will not be denied. Everything then becomes moot. But we are now ready for that fresh start. And a damned site cheaper it will be too.