Was Brexit Suitable For Mediation?

Sorry. I do understand that we are all thoroughly sick of hearing about Brexit. So far down the line from that referendum, we seem to be irretrievably mired in a nightmare scenario which seems likely to afford absolutely no way out acceptable to any but the hardest of hard Brexiteers.

I’ve kept remembering over the last few days a question I was asked quite some time ago which was whether I thought the issue of Brexit was suitable for mediation between Europe and the United Kingdom. I thought about that before answering that I would assess it unsuitable because one of the parties had absolutely no clear idea what it wanted out of the process. That of course would be us. Events since have unfortunately done nothing but prove me right. So much energy has been devoted to managing internal schisms on all sides that the chances of negotiating any coherent deal which would work for the UK as a whole have always seemed remote. We can only now hope that, facing the abyss, a resolution may be achieved by those  parliamentarians who want to achieve something half way tenable working together.

I might well have taken a very different view as to the suitability question if we had, from the outset, established a cross-party committee made up of both remainers and leavers to work out what our negotiating stance should be. Indeed that may have given those of us outside parliament some faith in politicians being able to put country before party and may have gone some way to addressing the scary schisms which the referendum revealed in society as a whole.

It doesn’t matter a jot whether negotiations are on a huge international scale or those with which we mediators are concerned every day. The reality is that no negotiation stands a prayer of success unless the parties each have a coherent view of what they want to achieve for themselves. As a mediator I have to work on the basis that my clients broadly each know what they want to achieve from a deal. Additionally they need to accept the realities of the context in which they are negotiating. By that I mean not only what the practical realities are as to what is available but also the legal realities of how a court would apply the law to balance respective needs amongst other things.

Maybe our government would have benefitted from some good hard, pragmatic advice from their equivalent of a divorce lawyer prepared to make him or herself unpopular with a client by spelling out the facts of life!


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