Crisis management of the Brexit Article 50 negotiations

The European Union’s Brexit negotiating screws are turning on a weakened Mrs May and Co. It is painful to behold the concessions given to them only to be followed by their extra demands, such as the rights of EU citizens in the UK after Brexit.

It must be tortuous being there in the room with Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk or Guy Verhofstadt (each an EU version of the Marquis de Sade) and Angela Merkel’s (pig headed) attack dogs enjoying Schadenfreude. Did anyone think we could actually negotiate with them without being treated to an EU version of Count Dracula siphoning out as much of our life blood as possible? At what point do we recognise that these Article 50 negotiations are going to make us second class citizens in our own country and worse?  Some serious crisis management is needed, preferably before being on the rack of this modern day Inquisition (or Imposition) gets unbearable.

The most basic rules of crisis management are:

  • Don’t get into a crisis in the first place;
  • Once in a crisis, don’t do anything to make it worse;
  • Don’t believe that the original timetable, objectives and budget can still be achieved;
  • The earlier the remedial intervention, the greater the chances of recovery.

The basic problem – why things go wrong in the first place and don’t get corrected in time – is that all decisions and resulting actions, whatever is happening,  occur within an underlying paradigm or conceptual framework.  This paradigm includes subject and other knowledge, assumptions, beliefs, aspirations, language, philosophy etc. and operates to constrain intellectual activity. Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions explored the effect of paradigms on scientific progress. Kuhn noted that the luminaries of the science community tended limit their interest to exploring an existing ‘conventional world view’ of science, and ignoring contradictory evidence and theories. Progress tended to come from the ‘outsiders’ who established a new paradigm.

Individual paradigms can also turn into a group one or consensus that is fundamentally flawed; peer group pressure commonly stifles any dissenting views. Irving L. Janis in Victims of Groupthink explored how a group (in this case concerned with American foreign policy) could make potentially dangerous mistakes. He has suggested in Crucial Decisions – Leadership in Policymaking and Crisis Management how this can be avoidedThe picture of imperatives towards bad policymaking is completed by process and bureaucratic controls, poor communications, custom and practice, heuristic shortcuts and management/political leadership ego (loss of face) which can all also help to prevent reality being accepted and acted upon expeditiously, when things are going wrong.

Regarding Brexit negotiations, once Mrs May made her Lancaster House speech in January this year the die was cast, come EU hell, high water, or General Election disaster. Yet there were – and still are – many issues where our Brexit negotiations looks like shambolic vague wishful thinking, based on incomplete and inaccurate information (see Brexit and some Alternative Facts), and questionable assumptions (for some significant assumptions see The Big EU-UK Question).

 This makes us vulnerable and risks our being taken to the cleaners by the EU over, for example,: the number, order and imposed conditions of subjects ‘negotiated’ such as any ongoing contributions to the EU black hole (aka budget and liabilities), turning EU citizens remaining in this country into a privileged caste, trade/bureaucratic regulation terms propelling our finest enterprises on a one way route to commercial oblivion and setting us up as a warning of what the vengeance of the EU élite means for any wayward populists in the remaining EU Member States.  Less than two months ago, it was obvious the EU was behaving in an uncompromising way, showing bad faith in respect to Brexit negotiations (see Mayday, May! Brexit Mayday). Yet we are weaker now compared with then and need to come up with an alternative strategy (or strategies) that stands a better chance of getting us out of the claws of the EU political machinery and machinations – ensuring we achieve a real Brexit and not continuing EU members in reality, if not in name.

Recovery in a crisis needs a new paradigm to replace the existing failing one, and the resources to make it work. This suggests rapidly taking on board an effective Company Doctor or turnaround specialist (or team) for Brexit who thinks the unthinkable and stamps his or her authority and project management expertise quickly on the negotiations.  Forget the idea of just getting more of the same people – usually this actually slows down progress.  The new paradigm needs to be based on an understanding of the existing failing one and its obvious flaws, such as unrealistic assumptions about the EU’ negotiating priorities,  their desire to reach a deal,  their honesty and integrity,  their flexibility to achieve a deal, what is achievable within the timetable and the difference between a real comprehensive fully resourced plan and vacuous hyperbole.  The new paradigm needs to be evidence- and analysis-driven, including risk assessments of probabilities of being realistic. Above all, it must not be based on wishful thinking or aspirations, or after drinks entertainment for the Westminster Bubble.  And most importantly the existing team mustn’t shoot the messenger because the message is unpalatable or demand a sycophantic re-write.

It would be nice to think that everything will be all right in the end and we will leave the EU seamlessly in March 2019, despite the best (or worst) efforts of our negotiating team under the direction of Mrs May and Mr Davis (Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union).  Unfortunately history is full of projects that failed to come in on time, budget and to specified requirements or objectives.  In the absence of hard evidence to the contrary, Brexit negotiations appear to be heading the same way; or more metaphorically the Brexit orchestra is playing as the Titanic ship of state sails serenely on towards a sea full of EU negotiating icebergs.


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  1. Richard NorthReply

    I think we should start from where we want to be. This means, at least, taking control of our fish stock; getting out of the European Arrest Warrant arrangement; and ensuring that no officers of Europol or the European Gendarmerie Force appear on the streets of Britain. After that, the Govt must take steps to rebuild our industrial base.

  2. david bartropReply

    Rather too negative a senario, like the BBC/ or opposition, we need to get advice from other countries, trade with all, grow and make our own goods, GET ALL OUR 200MILE FISHING BACK. It is illegal in this country to bully or coerse anyone, so we are our own masters and should not have any rules imposed by Brussels whatsoever.
    If we arrange to trade with the rest of the world we can leave the EU high and dry, if they are not quick to do business with us we will have gone! If people interviewing polititians are not civil, the polititians should throw down the microphone and walk out , like John Nott did .
    David Bartrop.

  3. Phil JonesReply

    The UK is never going to get a fair deal from the EU. The EU will keep moving the posts, trying to stall long enough for problems to build up in the UK enough for Brits to call for stopping Brexit. All highly predictable. If Mrs. May actually wants the UK to return to being a sovereign country she and her government should simply walk away. Mrs. May presented a very fair compromise for EU citizens living in the UK, just to have the EU reject it offhand. And the EU will keep rejecting whatever she offers on every issue presented. A total total total waste of time dealing with the EU and its stall tactics. PLEASE, MRS. MAY, WALK AWAY JUST AS SOON AS YOU HAVE READY A TRAINED AND SKILLED GROUP OF W.T.O. NEGOTIATORS!!

  4. R HewsonReply

    Agree with comments above. The EU will stall on every point . The tactic of delay and conquer. They have no intention of loosing GB,its second best cash cow.
    We really must walk from away from these discussions, unless they become a two way street of give,, and take. Not as the EU see it. They take, we give. If we are not careful GB will be back in the EU in a far worse situation than we currently are. possibly forced to adopt the euro.. They say we don’t have to pay to leave . Could have fooled me.

  5. Gordon WebsterReply

    Someone advising Theresa May set out to make sure she lost. Up until the launch of that cretinous manifesto, they were romping home. Someone – Hammond, Fallon, her Advisers – decided to attack the group seen as the biggest Lave Voter – the elderly, or older British. I think Mrs May is now aware that someone deliberately sabotaged the election, and has stiffened her resolve. I also believe that the deal with the DUP is a game-changer. As Jacob Rees-Mogg has already stated, invoking Article 50 has passed both Houses of Parliament and must now happen. All the remainiacs can now do, is mount an EU ‘damage limitation exercise,” to help Brussels keep as much power over us as possible. That is now where our focus must shift.

  6. PipReply

    Lets get this straight!
    By even the most benevolent standard of psychological analysis the EU is sociopathic in character and
    cryptofascist in nature!

    You cant look for closure by negotiating with a sociopath

    It gives them exactly what the want -unconditional and endless continuation of power to control you further

    The break of power has to be clean then the UK can move on
    Those advocating a messy Brexit are in the thrall of a tyranical system, possibly suffering from Stockholm syndrome and or are significant beneficiaries of the EU fiscal charade
    Make no mistake there are few, possibly no politicians in the UK that are professionally qualified to deal with sociopaths
    The Prime minister would do well to get together a team of skilled psychologists to advise her rather than what she has!
    Any one from the quayside can stand for Parliament bless em all

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