Since the UK joined the EU in 1973, trade policy has meant little in UK politics. Now it’s back! And it’s all about tactics. However, it’s interesting that both sides are using the same negotiation tactics that we would describe in our International Negotiation seminars as ‘"worst-case scenario" strategies.
The Deadline Effect
Both sides are prepared to drag negotiations out until deadline day in order to get the best deal. The chaos surrounding the opening of negotiations may have been a UK tactic to play for time in order to decide on a key objective: what trade deal does it want with the EU?
However, reaching an agreement at the ‘eleventh hour’ is a risky tactic (look at deadline football transfers). The UK tries to insure itself against this tactic with its “no deal is better than a bad deal” bluff – and now its interest in an uncertain transitional deal covering the period after EU-exit (end of March 2019) and getting a long-term agreement.
The Commitment Tactic
This is when negotiators commit themselves to a favourable bargaining position, for example, the UK blocking the free movement of people. Bargaining power is higher, the larger the cost of breaking that commitment. So, this ‘weakness’ – the high cost of backtracking on the free movement of people – becomes a bargaining strength for the UK. Using this tactic may help, but only to some extent. The EU, of course, also has its own ‘commitments’ and are reluctant to make special cases.
The Non-Negotiable Game
The UK wants free trade, but not the free movement of people. The EU insists on both being inseparable. This style of negotiation, ‘positional bargaining,’ is when each side takes fixed positions resulting in a last-minute trade-off that leaves people dissatisfied. A simple switch in strategy could change that dynamic. William Ury and Roger Fisher, authors of ‘Getting to Yes’, recommend ‘principled bargaining’, focusing instead on outcomes that work for all. This means brainstorming, building options, problem-solving, and identifying concessions which bring real value to both sides.
If agreement is going to be reached on trade and people, some Option-Creating and Problem-Solving strategies, like those we work on in our International Negotiation seminars, need to be introduced.
Take part in our next seminar, Successful International Negotiations on April 11-12, 2018, to learn more effective ways that work in creating options, and ultimately solving problems, when negotiating with international business partners.
by Jason Harman - Trainer and Consultant with LUCAS CONSULTING TEAM since 2012