I’m sure I’m not the only business person that has watched incredulously as this Brexit negotiation continues. Incredulous because of those who expected to get exactly what they want in a negotiation in which they hold none of the trump cards. True, the negotiation is completely different from a business situation where both the seller and the buyer both want the same outcome – a sale (or purchase). But in these negotiations the EU 27 have made it perfectly clear they do not want the UK to leave, so why would they give any ground at all in the negotiations? What is completely amazing is the feigned surprise that the UK hasn’t got everything they set out to achieve in the negotiations. It really shouldn’t be a surprise and only morons expect complete concession in a negotiation.

Meanwhile we all continue watching with our mouths wide open and continue running our day-to-day business longing for the day when this country will see some political stability. I fear we may be waiting longer than we want for that. So, what are the arts of negotiation that the UK team could have put into practice to possibly have achieved a better outcome? First, smiling and a cheery disposition always help in negotiations. Sometimes slightly daring or cheeky points can be made that do not cause offence if you have a smile on your face. I can’t help thinking that the two Brexit Ministers and many of the Brexiteers seem so angry with the EU, it can’t help in the negotiations. Lighten up! 

Secondly, all negotiations should have a win-win final position. For example, as a buyer it is no good negotiating with a supplier so hard that they end up with no margin. We should all want our suppliers to make a reasonable margin, so they are interested in our business, and will engage in other activities to support it. Likewise, I would expect that our customers would want us to make a margin too. Some retailers expect to make 45% margin and then expect their wholesalers or suppliers to work on 10-15% - that simply does not work for them and they will not continue to be able to afford good service. 

Thirdly, for any negotiation to work, either party needs to be free to walk away. This is another problem for the Brexit negotiations but is also a problem for many producers who supply supermarkets. Many suppliers have too many eggs in one supermarket basket so when a squeeze comes on and unreasonable demands are made, it is too difficult for them to walk away and refuse to accede to their demands. (Incidentally, this scenario has other negative impacts as currently seen with the break-up of Wyevale Garden Centres. At least one wholesaler who had a disproportionate amount of business with this one group is now in a difficult position). 

Finally, key to success in negotiation is to remember the people you are dealing with are human beings. Treat them with respect and dignity and tell the truth. Lies and exaggerations tend to have a habit of coming back to bite you at some point in the future. What goes around comes around. Integrity and honesty are aspects I have always valued in business, and that’s where business relationships can become friendships.