Why no deal or a bad deal are the only two choices on offer

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UK businesses need to start preparing now for the likelihood that there will be no unified deal covering the UK’s exit from Europe.

Let’s face it anyone expecting a good deal is being naive. The odds are actually more in favour of no deal. The chaotic negotiating style of EU representatives and the need to get 27 different countries to agree to a multiplicity of arrangements will be impossible.

The other decisive factor is down to incentives. Politicians of whatever stripe have, in that ghastly phrase, “no skin in the game”. A failure to agree a deal will not result in any immediate loss of office for any politico involved in the negotiations. If anything they are incentivised to not make a deal since all the risk hangs on the side of agreement and any measurement of success will be prone to intense criticism given that the naysayers will vastly outweigh those who are in favour for any outcome apart from stalemate. For Barnier, Fox, Juncker and Davis any form of compromise will be seen as weakness by both their supporters and their opponents. The obvious negotiating solution for all of them is to not agree a deal and blame the other side’s obstinacy for the failure to get something done thus preserving their political face.

The so called “Brexit negotiations” are in reality an exercise of personal power between the main protagonists. It is about perceived prestige and the portrayal of the strong man, they are all white men after all, and none will want to be seen to back down to any of the others. To do so will mean the end of political careers.

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The real negotiations can only start once the current political sideshow is over and will take place between those who have real reasons for making them succeed. The out turn of Brexit negotiations will take ten, twenty and thirty years to resolve and can only take place in a piece meal way. The priorities will only become truly apparent when the policy failures are exposed and politicians are forced to tackle issues which mean something to each party. That cannot happen until the current charade is over. The UK already had the best deal it was likely to get now each new relationship between the UK and the European Commission will need to tackled individually and away from the false publicity of the Barnier/Juncker – Fox/Davis bun fight. Nothing good can come from this posturing so we may as well get used to the reality now.

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