How not to negotiate

I will not pretend to be an expert on international relations and fully understand the incredible array of issues to resolve in a deal like Brexit. However I find it amusing the number of miscues occurring and how they fail to demonstrate any understanding of bargaining or simple game theory. The article linked below is just the latest example of this.

England already voted for an exit from the EU for reasons that I think are ultimately silly, but that can be discussed later. The referendum forcing the departure really limits the leverage in negotiations and erodes the incentives of the EU to be accommodating on many issues. There is no option to say, “Give some on this issue or I will leave.” It is known you are leaving and I can take that as a given and negotiate accordingly.

It is this fact that amazes me most, as an outsider with little experience or knowledge about the specific workings of the relationship before the vote, and the array of legal technicalities that must be addressed. The other members of the EU now face an issue of deciding where England can be replaced, which means opportunistic countries will be looking to assert more authority and establish their importance in a revised group.

England’s attitude seems like the old schoolyard “I am going to take my ball and go home” threat. However others have a ball and are waiting for you to follow through. If not there is a credibility gap.

In addition, the internal conflict of the Conservative party make this something close to bad dinner theater. Internal political divisions within parties are amusing and England does not have a monopoly on this right now but there seems to be so much riding on a “good” Brexit deal that it is a heightened level of tragic comedy.

If I were an EU negotiator I would be sitting there saying, “How can I miss you if you do not go away?” There are clearly good reasons for the EU to continue an economic relationship with England, but there is little reason to make the process easy on them. You want to deter others from leaving of course, but the way England decided to depart is another reason to twist the knife get so slowly.

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