REAL-WORLD INSIGHTS

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Published: Apr 06 , 2017
Author: Robin Copland

I suspect that the Brexit negotiations will provide a fruitful source of negotiating stories over the next two or three years (longer – much longer, if you believe some commentators), so I apologize in advance to our many overseas readers. It is instructive and, dare I say, amusing to watch people • Who really do not know what a negotiation actually is • Who have no experience of sitting in a room with a hard-nosed negotiator on the other side of the table and what it feels like make unguarded comments that sound good in a sound bite.

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Published: Mar 30 , 2017
Author: Robin Copland

So what exactly happened yesterday in the House of Commons during the Prime Minister’s Brexit statement to the House of Commons on 29 March? People have either congratulated Theresa May or derided her along predictable lines, but I maintain that what was actually happening was that the UK delivered its opening statement for the upcoming and tortuous two-year negotiation with the EU. Forget the 9 months leading up to this opening statement. Forget the salvoes and the posturing. Forget the talk about “hard Brexit” and partnerships and access to the open market. Forget them all. Yesterday in parliament is where the negotiation proper started. The prime minister stood at the dispatch box and laid out the UK’s position. She outlined her long-term aims for the negotiations - the targets towards which she expects her negotiating teams to aim.

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Published: Mar 16 , 2017
Author: Stephen White

Dear Donald I am writing because you might have seen some scurrilous press speculation that the UK has decided to leave the European Union. FAKE NEWS!! The truth is that we have had a referendum and some subsequent discussions in Parliament which overwhelmingly demonstrated with certainty that the country is split as to whether to stay or go. 52% of the population want to leave, 48% want to stay, and 93% are undecided. Because this gives me a clear choice of mandates I am advising you that this letter is intended to trigger Article 50, which apparently enables us to leave unless we change our minds because we can’t agree a deal, or we agree a deal we don’t agree with, or because you have changed the constitution of the EU in the meantime.

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Published: Jan 26 , 2017
Author: Stephen White

There has been much talk over the last few weeks about what might happen if, at the end of 2 years of negotiation with the EU after Article 50 is triggered, no deal is agreed. ‘Cliff edge’ refers to this doomsday situation where the UK is out of Europe and not in anything except trouble. Hence the focus on transitional arrangements which Mrs May said she didn’t/did want within the same paragraph of her speech last week – see the previous Scotwork blog for this and other peculiarities in that speech.

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Published: Jan 18 , 2017
Author: Stephen White

"That is why I have said before — and will continue to say — that every stray word and every hyped-up media report is going to make it harder for us to get the right deal for Britain." Theresa May has long repeated the mantra that she is not going to reveal the details of Britain’s Brexit negotiating tactics, because that would be poor negotiating practice. Yet in her speech on Tuesday she did just that. Here are some verbatim extracts – what deductions could you make from the highlighted words if you were a European bureaucrat charged with analysing Britain’s negotiating position

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Published: Jan 05 , 2017
Author: Stephen White

Like the conference speaker who has the misfortune to be given the slot immediately after a brilliant raconteur, 2017 is unlikely to be a ‘wow’ year, following on as it does from a humdinger 2016. Unlikely, but not impossible, and it certainly got off to a great start with the unexpected resignation of the UK’s Permanent Representative to the EU Sir Ivan Rogers, an event which would probably have been called PRexit if it wasn’t so easy to mishear. Not only did he surprise everyone with his impeccable timing - the first Brexit bombshell of the year – but in his swan song note to colleagues he laid into the Government for its appalling state of Brexit preparation

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Published: Dec 08 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

People think of negotiating as “that thing you do when you’re buying a car” (you’re probably haggling), or “that time you took a particularly sinuous series of bends at speed without driving over the cliff edge” (you were probably driving). At Scotwork, we are of the view that negotiating is that thing you do when something happens to make the status quo no longer tenable; in other words, external factors disrupt an ongoing relationship to the extent that contracts and relationships need to be re-aligned

Published: Nov 03 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

Complicated negotiations often involve different meetings, different personnel, different issues and, in the case of the upcoming Brexit negotiations, different countries! The key word in this kind of negotiation is alignment and that involves a number of different factors and considerations. We can learn from the insect world; think bees! Perhaps first and foremost, there needs to be a central “go-to” point where all the information and meeting notes are collated and stored. It is vital to have a central hive of information that teams preparing for a new round of negotiation can reference. The old phrase, “singing off the same hymn sheet” has a certain resonance in this regard. The workers need a point of reference.

Published: Oct 20 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

This isn’t going to be popular; to write it – even to think it - sticks in my throat as it offends against my innate sense of fair play and good will to all people, but there really are times when I want to take our elected representatives to one side and slap them about the face. They pontificate and they grandstand; they puff themselves up into rice krispies of righteous indignation; they adopt their “holier than thou” positions; they occasionally demonstrate a frightening lack of common sense and commercial nous and, at the same time, they would have us weaken our position in future negotiations.

Published: Jul 28 , 2016
Author: John McMillan

Over the last 40 years I have observed more than 5,000 hours of negotiation in over 30 countries and that has taught me the about the fatal errors that cause negotiations to fail. For the purpose of this blog I shall limit myself to the top five and see how many of these might be present in the UK’s attempt to extricate itself from its 43-year relationship with the European Union.

Published: Jun 30 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

So what are you doing about Brexit’ demanded my 90-year-old Mum. ‘Why should I be doing anything about it?’ I asked. ‘Because every other sentence on the news channels since Friday morning has contained the word Negotiation’ she said. Point taken.

Published: May 19 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

Walk out the door? Maybe not quite as easy as you may think. The challenge for anyone in a long term relationship, business or pleasure, and particularly one experiencing difficulty is: do I invest in trying to fix it or cut my losses?

Published: Feb 25 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

We have a problem with my mother. She is a gregarious 90 year old, has successfully lived on her own since my Dad died 10 years ago, she is full of life and bright as a button, lots of friends, goes out to play cards five times a week. Until three weeks ago.

Published: Feb 18 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

It’s not that David Cameron does not have his troubles to seek as he shuttles around Europe trying to secure support for a modified agreement with the UK’s fellow European Union member states, but I bet you he wishes he had not been quite so cavalier as to promise an “in-out referendum” in the period leading up to the 2015 UK general election.

Published: Oct 22 , 2015
Author: David Bannister

Daniel Hannan is a British Member of the European Parliament (MEP), an institution for which he seems to have little warmth (as do quite a number of other British MEPs). The UK has announced its intention to renegotiate the terms of its membership of the European Union (EU) and to put the issue to a referendum in the next couple of years. The tactics of all of this are of more than passing interest to a negotiator. So far, our Prime Minister, David Cameron, has made only relatively vague references to what issues will be on the agenda when he negotiates with his fellow leaders, some of whom have wasted no time to tell Cameron what they think will not be on the agenda. Those of us interested in the negotiating tactics might conclude (as I do) that not saying what you want is not a great starting point on the journey to getting what you want.

Published: Jun 18 , 2015
Author: Stephen White

How many deadlines have been and gone in the continuing saga of the economic chaos in Greece? I would suggest there have been so many that we no longer believe that any of them really mattered – or ever will matter in the future. The crescendo of press speculation in recent days indicates yet again that the media believes we might be getting close to a crisis point. That is because Greece has a large repayment of debt – a tidy €1.6 billion - to make to the International Monetary Fund by June 30th, and there isn’t that much in the Greek coffers, so there is a real possibility that Greece will default that day, triggering the much publicized exit of Greece from the Eurozone, commonly known as the Grexit.

Published: Jan 29 , 2015
Author: Robin Copland

Well, the Greeks have finally gone and done it. At the weekend, they kicked out the conservative New Democracy party – the dominant force in the coalition led by the outgoing prime minister Antonis Samaras and instead voted in Alexis Tsipras’s radical left Syriza party. The rest of Europe has looked on askance; Greece has muscled her way onto the front pages of just about every serious newspaper in Europe; bankers and leaders Europe-wide have been keeping the Andrex puppy busy ever since the news came out.

Published: Nov 13 , 2014
Author: Robin Copland

There has been much weeping and gnashing of teeth lately amongst the chattering classes and politicians in the UK and, perhaps predictably as we move ever closer to what promises to be the strangest election in recent history, it concerns money and the European Union...

Published: Feb 13 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

Switzerland's economy is booming at the moment, and unemployment is low, but many Swiss worry about what they see as a looming problem, namely, immigration. Last year 80,000 new immigrants arrived in Switzerland with a relatively small overall population of around 5 million, and foreigners now make up 23% of the inhabitants. It is the continent's second highest foreign population after Luxembourg, for whom 42% are immigrants.

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A Metaphor for the Brexit Negotiations?

An interesting take on ‘bridging the gap’ came to my attention this week. The story has to be told anonymously because of client confidentiality, but the essence was a dispute over the amount of a pay-out between an insurance syndicate and a business…

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