Brexit Negotiations: How to make the impossible deal (part 2)

Diplomacy is the art of letting somebody else have your way.
— David Frost

In the previous blog, we completed the vital step of understanding the process of decision-making. Now we will examine how to prepare for these complex negotiations.

Given the number of countries, it is likely that coalitions of countries will form. Dealing with coalitions requires special skills. But according to Peter Block, one of the most important skills is to say no when you mean no. In other words, a vital part of preparation is to identify what you will not do. So, for each issue decide what your 'worst possible outcome’ is. Like many negotiations, these negotiations will depend mainly on four issues. We suggest these are the four main issues:

A.      Movement of people for tourism

B.      Movement of people for work

C.      Residency permitted (including owning property, access to health services and payments for health services); Transition arrangements for people already living in countries (e.g. UK residents in Spain and France)

D.     Trading agreements with the EU (access for different products & tariffs for products)

To prepare, first, we recommend preparing to negotiate with the EU as one party. For negotiating with the EU as one party, start by preparing three positions for each issue. First the worst possible position, then the best possible outcome and finally an outcome between the two extremes. But not splitting the difference. See the video in this blog, and Chapter 3 of Stephen Kozicki’s, The Creative Negotiator, 2nd Edition.

After this, we would prepare similarly as if we were going to negotiate independently with each of the top eight countries.  So, we would create eight further negotiation plans, one each for Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Romania, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Then, for each issue, we would judge whether the UK is better off negotiating on an issue with different countries. For example, the residency issue will affect UK citizens living in Spain and France the most and Polish people living in the UK the most.

On issue C (residency): Is the UK better off negotiating an EU-wide agreement on residency? Or on this issue would it be better off to negotiate one agreement with France, a different agreement with Spain and another different agreement with Poland. Agreements in France and Spain may contain important conditions about UK citizen’s rights to own property in France and Spain. In exchange for property rights, the UK may be willing to contribute towards the health costs of citizens living in France and Spain. Since most of UK citizens living in France and Spain are retired, the issue of permits to work is a minor issue.

In contrast, currently working in the UK are about 850,000 workers from Poland (population 38 Million). These workers contribute indirectly to the Polish economy by sending some of their earnings back to their families still living in Poland.  So, permits to work will be a major issue.  

Under UK law, immigrants who have been in the U.K. for more than five years can apply for permanent residency. The Polish Institute of International Affairs, a Warsaw-based think tank, estimates that still leaves between 120,000 to 400,000 Poles who are not eligible for residency.

So perhaps on the issue of residency, the UK may be more willing to negotiate with these three countries separately instead of negotiating with the whole EU. The only way to decide which way to negotiate is: for each issue to compare the plan for the EU with the plans for the individual countries. Then, of course, begin to test their plans by meeting with some countries before negotiations start.

In all negotiations, preparation matters to get good results. In multi-party negotiations, extensive preparation is critical. 

There’s no substitute for genuine lack of preparation.
— Anon