Brexit Negotiations: Mission Impossible?

Luther Stickell: "You really think we can do this?"

Ethan Hunt: "We are going to do it."

So, the UK has voted for Brexit. What’s next? Negotiating the exit. What does this involve? Part of this is Article 50, where the UK has to give notice it’s leaving. There is good news and bad news about Article 50. The good news is it is only 300 words, and the bad news is its only 300 words. Why both good news and bad news?

To understand we need to see what Article 50 says:

So, the reason this is good news is there is flexibility in the 300 words, so this gives the opportunity to find a deal that works. However, this flexibility is bad news because there are so many parties involved; each of the 27 countries will have a different deal in mind and there is only two years to negotiate with 27 countries from a blank piece of paper to an agreement. Just to add to the complexity of the process it appears each of the 27 countries has the power of veto.

Audiences make negotiators try harder and act tougher.
— Roy Lewicki

Do you think it sounds complex enough? In 2017, there are elections in the Netherlands, France and Germany.  Any agreement appears to need to be ratified by national parliaments too. So, negotiations will happen in a tinderbox of national politics. To discourage other states from leaving the EU, some European political leaders have suggested negotiations will be brutal.

When somebody challenges you, fight back. Be brutal, be tough.
— Donald Trump

By now, I am sure you agree this sounds like Mission Impossible. Imagine for a moment, that you have been given the job of leading the negotiations. How would you prepare and who would you have on your negotiating team. Watch out for our next blog where we will tell you how we would prepare.

To paraphrase, Joel Barker, here’s a question for the Brexit negotiators: 

What is impossible to do right now, but, if you could do it, would fundamentally change your country.
— Joel Barker

Stephen Kozicki has a whole chapter on creativity in his new book The Creative Negotiator: Changing the Focus to Value in all B2B negotiations, where he explains that in fact, the harder the problem or, the more impossible it seems to fix, the greater value that you can build with your solution.

When you are stuck for solution in your next impossible negotiation, use this book for inspiration and assistance.