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Who is Going to Pick the Fruit?

Published: Jul 27 , 2017
Author: Robin Copland

It’s amazing how many people go into negotiations with no clear idea about their bottom line.  “We’ll see how it goes,” seems to be the rather naive thought and of course they leave themselves open to the risk of a really poor and unprofitable deal at the end of it.

It is empowering to know your bottom line, especially when you have internal agreement at senior level.  Think about it: the other side are aggressively demanding that you improve your terms, but you know that what they are asking for is beyond your bottom line.  Suddenly, all of their posturing and aggression can be seen for what it is and you can respond in a quiet and contemplative way, in the full and certain knowledge that you will be backed up by senior management.

As I say – very empowering.

But then there’s the situation where you have too many limits – every issue has a “red line”.  This is especially common

  • When the company or organisation is run “by committee”
  • Where there are a number of different vested interests involved in the decision-making process
  • And where those vested interests are “conviction” people, as opposed to pragmatists.

In the UK right now, we are about to become embroiled in the Brexit negotiations with our partners in the European Union.  The fact that the country voted (by 52% - 48%, so hardly a ringing endorsement) to leave the EU has allowed various extreme “conviction” politicians to come out of their dens and loudly proclaim, no matter the reality of their position, that such and such an issue is a “red line” for them; indeed, how dare anyone suggest otherwise in the light of the “democratic decision of the people”.

As I write the following seem to be “red lines” for someone or another

  • Control of our borders with strict controls on immigration. Theresa May, the UK Prime Minister, has said that there should be no limit on people of proven talent and ability coming to the UK, though she has so far remained silent on the 80000 migrant workers needed each year to pick fruit in the UK.  There is a 20% shortfall this year and it is being blamed on a view held abroad of Britain being a “racist” and “xenophobic” country in the light of the Brexit vote.
  • Regain control of the UK legal systems (I use the plural advisedly as Scotland has a completely separate and independent legal system from the rest of the UK)
  • Removal of the UK from the “Single Market”, coincidentally the biggest market in the world and one that the United Kingdom was instrumental in setting up
  • Withdrawal from the Customs Union
  • Re-negotiation of the outstanding payments to the EU budget.

In other words, just about everything!

David Davies is the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and all of this makes his life as a negotiator all the more difficult.  He does at least – and unusually for a senior politician in the UK – have a business and negotiating background, having worked in senior positions for Tate and Lyle for many years before becoming a politician. 

Oh, but hang on; he was one of the ones that wanted out and managed to persuade 52% of the population that they wanted out as well – something about £350m a week for the NHS, I seem to remember.

Good luck for the next couple of years then.  Enjoy.


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Robin Copland
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