Regardless of your views on Brexit, one cannot escape the reality that the negotiations so far have been wrought with difficulty. Recently, on Radio 4’s PM programme I was asked, “If Brexit really is a divorce and a messy one at that would a mediator help?” With over 20 years of experience in extremely difficult and complex commercial, corporate and family conversations, I welcomed the opportunity to get the ball rolling on bringing an external mediator to the negotiating table.
What are the problems with the current approach?
The direct style we are currently witnessing is recycled from 19th Century negotiations, characterised by grandiose, ceremonious and adversarial engagements and not at all fit for purpose; why not upgrade our processes in political negotiation?
There are real opportunities being lost by the approach the UK government and European Commission are taking to this highly sensitive and complex constitutional negotiation. It is fair to say that our politicians are employing a ‘horse drawn carriage’ equivalent to negotiation communication rather than the turbo-charged process that can be derived from a focused mediation team.
My negotiation and mediation experience tells me that the current negotiation methodology is inefficient and unproductive. It is too fragmented, too open to constant surveillance and critique by the public and media and too lacking in intense determination and momentum. The current ‘committee meeting’ approach is likely to leave the parties, near the end of the negotiation period, scrambling to secure final details and public approval. The result – a rushed deal to try and demonstrate success but probably littered with holes and devoid of widespread support.
So, what can a mediation team bring to the table?
As with all negotiations, especially ones as politically charged as Brexit, both the UK and Europe must advance and protect their own interests….
By Karl Mackie