Thursday, 30 June 2016

There's nothing like being prepared

Despite all of the noises offstage about another referendum and what have you, having voted to leave the EU, we should now be moving to the next stage: negotiating a new set of trade deals with the EU bloc and other relevant countries/organisations. 

Given that our political masters don't seem to have prepared for anything other than the next 5 minutes, how confident can we be that they are prepared for what is probably the most important set of negotiations since Yalta (look it up on Google)? Once upon a time, I used to get involved in 'negotiating' and, believe it or not, I had some formal training in the subject. Admittedly it was relatively low level stuff but I think the basic principles would still apply. So, what would I expect to be in place if we wanted to avoid getting screwed? Here are a few thoughts (thanks to the BBC for the background material): 
Strong and effective leadership
Getting a good deal requires strong leadership which coordinates the whole of the government's machinery, across the many ministries and non-governmental stakeholders who need to be consulted and involved. At the same time, aggressive political lobbying of national leaders and opinion formers needs to happen. Unity of purpose is important as any sign of disunity will be exploited by the 'opposition'.

Preparation and strategy
It is generally accepted that 80% of the effort of a formal negotiation is in the preparation and 20% in the execution. The government should start to prepare immediately and work towards defining its national interests and flesh out a strategy. Going into the negotiations, the UK should know exactly what it wants to get out of them and what it would take to get a good deal with the EU and with other trading partners.

An experienced and competent team
When it comes to making deals, the devil is in the detail. Trade deals are incredibly complex - the recently concluded deal between the EU and Canada runs to almost 1,600 pages and covers everything from fisheries to financial services. Successful negotiations require a skilled and large team. The EU has around 600 trade negotiators and the UK urgently needs a similarly sized team to craft new deals with major trade partners.

Taking the initiative
Successful negotiation involves clearly identifying your own interests and not simply reacting to the other side's. Our Government must know what it wants from any deal, what it wishes to keep off the negotiating table and the concessions it is willing to make. This is not easy. In an ideal world, the Government would already have consulted extensively with businesses, small and large, as well as consumer groups and trade unions. The ball would already have started rolling.

Here's your checklist:
  • Strong and effective leadership? Unity of purpose?
  • Preparation and strategy?
  • An experienced and competent team?
  • Taking the initiative?
How do we stack up? How ready are we? Who is right? Private Fraser or Corporal Jones?

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