Lubos Tomicek

writer ~ mental health advocate ~ blogger ~ debater ~ logician

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Why the negotiations with EU went wrong / Three reasons why Theresa May was never able to secure mutually beneficial agreement with EU

Notice: I just only started creating this website on 15th May 2019. That’s why some articles are not yet finished and some categories have no articles at all. I will update the site over coming weeks.

Lost negotiations

The so called ‘Withdrawal agreement’ brought by Theresa May three times in front of parliament, is fundamentally flawed. There are many clauses, which could shackle UK to EU with nothing in return. The analysis of the most obnoxious parts (based on my views) will be described in follow up article: The worst parts of May’s treaty.

Here I describe the three main procedural blunders made by UK negotiators. They led to the conception of a ‘deal’, which factually ties UK to EU on the terms worse than current membership of the EU. The UK team lost the negotiations even before they went to Strasbourg, simply because they didn’t understand (or deliberately omitted) three necessary prerequisites for any negotiations.

This in itself is a paradox. The truth is, you cannot secure good deal if you are not ready to accept no deal situation.

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Walk-away paradox

The first (and most important) condition to secure any good deal is being prepared to walk away from negotiations, rather than accept bad deal. This in itself is a paradox. The truth is, you cannot secure good deal if you are not ready to accept no deal situation. Theresa May repeated many times, that ‘No deal is better than bad deal’, but she never truly believed in what she said. She used this mantra only to soothe the UK electorate. It became crystal clear on the 1st of May, when in her address to parliament she said: “ No deal is better than bad deal was only in abstract”. Theresa May was in fact prepared to take any deal, which will tie UK to EU.


Were the negotiations just a scam from the first moment? Or are they really so stupid?

If you are not prepared to walk away, the other side will push through anything they want. You can protest to some parts, but the basic idea, that you need deal (any deal) will be used against you. If you are not prepared to walk away, bad deal is by default the only option left on the table, no matter how much you will oppose its terms. Only by willingness to say ‘Good bye’ can you actually secure equally favourable terms for both sides. It mustn’t be just abstract concept. It must be the default position. By saying “We have no deal as our basic option, do you want to discuss some different possibility?” you send strong message. You declare, that your default position is current status quo, and you will accept nothing less, than improved conditions for both sides. To miss such basic principle of negotiation brings question: “Were the negotiations just a scam from the first moment? Or are they really so stupid?”

Preparations

The second error was lack of planning on the UK side. The UK team had no plan for outcome before the start of the talks. They had no music sheet to sing from. They simply accepted the draft produced in Brussels as a basis for talks. The lack of own proposal could lead to only one result. The bulk of the deal will be on EU terms, with some small changes requested to the most problematic parts.


You know, that the other side will not accept your proposals at the face value, unless, of course, it’s the UK side in UK/EU negotiations

To achieve any sensible agreement, you cannot just walk in and accept whatever the other side presents as a basis for talks. You have to prepare your own conception, the proposal of the final deal. The draft has to outline three different possible outcomes. One, which you would be over moon to achieve. Another, which you will accept as good and fair result. And the last one, which you will still accept, but with clenching teeth. During talks you start with requests above the best possible outcome. You know, that the other side will not accept your proposals at the face value, unless, of course, it’s the UK side in UK/EU negotiations. When you start haggling, you have to make sure not to fall bellow the ‘worst case scenario’. Anything bellow that is simply no deal. If the UK team would have its own music sheet to sing from, the result wouldn’t be such a disaster. The lack of preparedness was the second major blunder of UK side.

Tit for tat, or nothing

The last key blooper made on the UK side, was acceptance of separate negotiations. The EU demanded to first set obligations of UK to EU, sign and put them force. EU demanded, that only after UK obligations will be signed, they are willing to debate about EU obligations. Any sane person knows, that setting commitments must be symmetrical. You cannot just accept all your responsibilities, sign and only after you are bind to your side of the deal, start to negotiate the other party’s obligations. You have to discuss obligations of both sides together. It has to be ‘quid pro quo’, ‘tit for tat’.

At the moment, when EU demanded to first set UK obligations, EU proved that they do not negotiate in ‘good faith’. They were fully out to destroy UK.

If ever this shameful treaty will be signed, UK will never get any further concessions from EU. Why would they give them? There would be no leverage to use after accepting the treaty. The moment EU used such dishonest tactic, the UK team should have left talks with simple and yet powerful reply: “It was nice to meet you ladies and gentlemen. We are leaving on 29th March 2019 on WTO terms. Have a good day.” I am absolutely sure, that EU team would call them back sooner rather than later, and they would agree to a proper negotiating. But, as mentioned above, the ‘no deal is better than bad deal’ was actually never an option.

Of course, there were many other errors during negotiations. Alas, they were a result of lost footing caused by above mentioned three major factors. Those three colossal blunders undermined whole negotiations even before they actually started and resulted not in a withdrawal deal, but into treasonous surrender treaty which (as Nigel Farage puts it in his plain, easy to understand, non-PC language) “are signed only by country defeated in war.”

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