Opinion: The power to walk away is a powerful position in any negotiation

Original article written by Stephen Fear for the Bristol Post on 7th June 2017 (also featured on SouthWestBusiness.co.uk on 7th June 2017):

WITH the general election upon us tomorrow and Brexit talks due to begin ten days later, my thoughts have gone to how Britain will survive and prosper regardless of which party wins the most seats, writes Stephen Fear.

Whether No 10 is occupied by Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn will dictate the next five years of government and with it what happens for the duration of the Brexit process.

Different negotiating styles can mean different results but either way I don’t expect the EU to make it easy for us to extract a good deal for Britain.

Much has been said about how over 40 per cent of our trade is now with the European Union but that is only natural, after all we have been members of the union for over 40 years.

The power to walk away is a powerful position in any negotiation.

I often mention it when giving talks in schools or colleges when I tell students that if they are offered drugs or are being bullied they have the power to walk away.

Factually, if one walks away from something undesirable the power in that negotiation is transferred from the bully to the bullied.

I’m not suggesting that we threaten the EU with walking away but if they understand that we have the power to do so, unless negotiations are acceptable to both sides, it does give us a stronger negotiating position.

Of course, many people believe we just can’t walk away but is that really the case?

I heard Nick Clegg saying on BBC Question Time last week that as the 27 European nations that will continue being members of the trading block are physically closer, they were our natural trading partners, but I’m not so sure!

Yes, it is certainly desirable to trade with them on favourable terms but to suggest that we are unable to thrive and prosper by focusing our export efforts further afield isn’t correct.

Modern shipping and air freight means that goods manufactured in Britain can arrive in far flung places just as fast and economically as they can be in Paris or Madrid. If this wasn’t the case, countries like China and Japan wouldn’t be the manufacturing powerhouses they are. Their primary markets are 6,000 miles away!

If we are to focus on exporting to a wider customer base then we need to step up to the mark by improving regional airports and building new ones where possible so that they can cater for freight.
We also need to improve apprenticeship schemes across the country and encourage young people to go into engineering, technology, cyber crime detection and other export focused occupations.

Britain can become a manufacturing powerhouse again but only with government support. We also need to start training young people to become salespeople, with courses at colleges and universities focused on training students in international trade negotiation and export. There is no point making things unless you can sell them.

“Made in Britain” still carries a cachet around the world.

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