REAL-WORLD INSIGHTS

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Published: Dec 07 , 2017
Author: John McMillan

Two’s company; 27’s a crowd. It may be tricky negotiating with a single party, but when there are 27 divergent interests on the other side of the table it becomes even harder. That is just part of the challenge that the UK Government has in their Brexit negotiations. In most negotiations the negotiator is not negotiating for their own benefit; they almost always represent a coalition of interests. If that coalition is united in its mandate to the negotiator, then she or he may have very little room to manoeuvre. Any concession beyond the mandate will have to go back to the coalition for approval. However, if there is disunity amongst the coalition then the negotiator’s ability to make a deal is fatally flawed...

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Published: Jul 27 , 2017
Author: Robin Copland

It’s amazing how many people go into negotiations with no clear idea about their bottom line. “We’ll see how it goes,” seems to be the rather naïve thought and of course they leave themselves open to the risk of a really poor and unprofitable deal at the end of it. It is empowering to know your bottom line, especially when you have internal agreement at senior level. Think about it: the other side are aggressively demanding that you improve your terms, but you know that what they are asking for is beyond your bottom line.

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Published: May 11 , 2017
Author: Annabel Shorter

Last week Theresa may declared herself that she will be ‘a bloody difficult woman’ in a warning to Jean-Claude Juncker regarding her likely stance in the upcoming Brexit negotiations. We are told that this was a criticism levelled at her by Ken Clarke some time ago. However, she said this with a degree of a pride, and I have my suspicions that she may well be right to be so. The issue of gender in negotiation is a fascinating one. Some time ago I was working with a prestigious, blue-chip organisation, training their buyers to improve their negotiating skills. They doubtless have in place all of the correct policies on diversity and social responsibility and I know that they are vehemently protective of their reputation...

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Published: Apr 06 , 2017
Author: Robin Copland

I suspect that the Brexit negotiations will provide a fruitful source of negotiating stories over the next two or three years (longer – much longer, if you believe some commentators), so I apologise in advance to our many overseas readers. It is instructive and, dare I say, amusing to watch people • Who really do not know what a negotiation actually is • Who have no experience of sitting in a room with a hard-nosed negotiator on the other side of the table and what it feels like make unguarded comments that sound good in a sound bite.

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Published: Mar 30 , 2017
Author: Robin Copland

So what exactly happened yesterday in the House of Commons during the Prime Minister’s Brexit statement to the House of Commoms on 29 March? People have either congratulated Theresa May or derided her along predictable lines, but I maintain that what was actually happening was that the UK delivered its opening statement for the upcoming and tortuous two-year negotiation with the EU. Forget the 9 months leading up to this opening statement. Forget the salvoes and the posturing. Forget the talk about “hard Brexit” and partnerships and access to the open market. Forget them all. Yesterday in parliament is where the negotiation proper started. The prime minister stood at the dispatch box and laid out the UK’s position. She outlined her long-term aims for the negotiations - the targets towards which she expects her negotiating teams to aim.

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Published: Jan 26 , 2017
Author: Stephen White

There has been much talk over the last few weeks about what might happen if, at the end of 2 years of negotiation with the EU after Article 50 is triggered, no deal is agreed. ‘Cliff edge’ refers to this doomsday situation where the UK is out of Europe and not in anything except trouble. Hence the focus on transitional arrangements which Mrs May said she didn’t/did want within the same paragraph of her speech last week – see the previous Scotwork blog for this and other peculiarities in that speech.

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Published: Jan 18 , 2017
Author: Stephen White

"That is why I have said before — and will continue to say — that every stray word and every hyped-up media report is going to make it harder for us to get the right deal for Britain." Theresa May has long repeated the mantra that she is not going to reveal the details of Britain’s Brexit negotiating tactics, because that would be poor negotiating practice. Yet in her speech on Tuesday she did just that. Here are some verbatim extracts – what deductions could you make from the highlighted words if you were a European bureaucrat charged with analysing Britain’s negotiating position...

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Published: Jan 05 , 2017
Author: Stephen White

Like the conference speaker who has the misfortune to be given the slot immediately after a brilliant raconteur, 2017 is unlikely to be a ‘wow’ year, following on as it does from a humdinger 2016. Unlikely, but not impossible, and it certainly got off to a great start with the unexpected resignation of the UK’s Permanent Representative to the EU Sir Ivan Rogers, an event which would probably have been called PRexit if it wasn’t so easy to mishear. Not only did he surprise everyone with his impeccable timing - the first Brexit bombshell of the year – but in his swan song note to colleagues he laid into the Government for its appalling state of Brexit preparation...

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Published: Dec 08 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

People think of negotiating as “that thing you do when you’re buying a car” (you’re probably haggling), or “that time you took a particularly sinuous series of bends at speed without driving over the cliff edge” (you were probably driving). At Scotwork, we are of the view that negotiating is that thing you do when something happens to make the status quo no longer tenable; in other words, external factors disrupt an ongoing relationship to the extent that contracts and relationships need to be re-aligned...

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Published: Nov 03 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

Complicated negotiations often involve different meetings, different personnel, different issues and, in the case of the upcoming Brexit negotiations, different countries! The key word in this kind of negotiation is alignment and that involves a number of different factors and considerations. We can learn from the insect world; think bees! Perhaps first and foremost, there needs to be a central “go-to” point where all the information and meeting notes are collated and stored. It is vital to have a central hive of information that teams preparing for a new round of negotiation can reference. The old phrase, “singing off the same hymn sheet” has a certain resonance in this regard. The workers need a point of reference...

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Published: Oct 27 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

What do Joni Mitchell and Boris Johnston have in common? Well very little I suspect, but they do both share an interesting way of looking at issues before finally making up their minds. “Both Sides Now” is one of Joni Mitchells most famous songs and appeared on her 1969 Album, Clouds. She says that she has investigated life, love and clouds from both sides, the inspiration being that she was on a transatlantic flight and looked down on the clouds rather than the more customary up. Boris Johnson was quoted in the press this weekend of having a similar way of making up his mind when considering his view of whether to support Britain’s In or Out vote over the now decided Brexit.

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Published: Oct 20 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

This isn’t going to be popular; to write it – even to think it - sticks in my throat as it offends against my innate sense of fair play and good will to all people, but there really are times when I want to take our elected representatives to one side and slap them about the face. They pontificate and they grandstand; they puff themselves up into rice krispies of righteous indignation; they adopt their “holier than thou” positions; they occasionally demonstrate a frightening lack of common sense and commercial nous and, at the same time, they would have us weaken our position in future negotiations.

Published: Jul 28 , 2016
Author: John McMillan

Over the last 40 years I have observed more than 5,000 hours of negotiation in over 30 countries and that has taught me the about the good negotiating behaviour that causes negotiations to succeed. For the purpose of this blog I shall limit myself to the top five and see how many of these might be present in the UK’s attempt to extricate itself from its 43-year relationship with the European Union...

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Published: Jul 14 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

You really couldn’t make this up. Prior to the recent Brexit referendum, there was a negotiation between David Cameron, the UK prime minister and Jean-Claude Juncker, the former Luxembourg prime minister and current commissioner of the European Union. Cameron, a very bright man indeed but with limited negotiating experience, went into bat against Juncker, a very bright man indeed but with limited negotiating experience. Their careers had been remarkably similar – early days as parliamentary aides, followed in Cameron’s case with a stint in the commercial world working for Carlton Communications, followed by election to their respective countries’ parliaments. Juncker studied law but had never practised. Neither had much, if any exposure to the cut and thrust of commercial negotiation. I sometimes wish that our politicians had more such experience, but there we are...

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‘Spot’ the Difference?

There was outrage this week at a new UK TV programme on Channel 4 - ‘Train Your Baby like a Dog’. In the documentary, animal behaviourist, Jo-Rosie Haffenden treats young children with a variety of issues including temper tantrums and violent outbursts. One of the methods used included ‘clicker training’ which is also employed...

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