Home » Brexit » Article 50 Invoked: Time to Make a List!

Article 50 Invoked: Time to Make a List!

by John Brian Shannon

With Article 50 invoked, plans for successful Brexit negotiations that lead to successful outcomes for both parties are imperative

Now that UK Prime Minister Theresa May has officially triggered Brexit by notifying the European Commission President Donald Tusk of Britain’s intention to leave the European Union, it’s time to make a list.

So, what should be the nature of that list?

As any self-respecting diplomat knows, it should be a list of the Top Ten items most likely to be agreed. This is a tried and true tenet of diplomacy where diplomats set up a success-based paradigm for their negotiators to increase the opportunities for successful outcomes via the negotiation process.


We all know when things begin well they have a much better chance of ending well. Conversely, if things begin badly they tend to get worse over time and end in disaster. It’s a simple human nature equation.

It’s not true in all cases, but when negotiations begin with goodwill on both sides and work from a list of negotiating points, negotiators craft success after success, leading to a conclusion everyone can live with (and yes!) celebrate.


Listen to the Voice of Experience Upon Whose Shoulders We Stand

Experienced diplomats like Henry Kissinger and Andrei Gromyko would never have considered entering negotiations without a plan for success, nor a plan that didn’t feature a Top Ten (or Top Six, etc) list of items to be discussed and solved, in order to set up a successful track record to enhance future negotiations.

It directs negotiations toward intellectual honesty — because it instantly proves whether goodwill exists, or whether the person on the other side of the table appears there under duress or to bamboozle the other party. Neither of which will result in anything good.

  • Choosing the items to be negotiated by whim of individual government ministers (because each minister quite rightly represents their own constituents, and consequently see the negotiations only through the prism of their local agenda) is probably the worst way to enter negotiations.
  • Another contender for the worst way to enter negotiations is for the media and/or the court of public opinion to be the de facto deciders of the topics to be negotiated, for the media loves a good story (who doesn’t!) and fireworks between politicians sell a lot of newspapers. One can’t blame the media, in fact, more power to them! But negotiations led by the media acting in its own best interest will always result in the worst possible outcomes.

The only way to ‘win’ is via ‘Win-Win’

The wisest course of action for Theresa May and Donald Tusk is to sketch-out a list of items at which negotiators could succeed early, thereby giving the negotiations some much-needed early momentum. It’s important to announce those successes so that credibility is enhanced for both sides and it’s likewise important to share the accolades with negotiators.

In the absence of success stories, the media default mode is to declare the negotiations ‘a disaster’ and both leaders will be pilloried out of politics. And that’s as it should be.

It’s unimportant which matters are up for discussion first, what is important is that negotiators succeed early and often. Any success, whether large or small drives the media narrative and the international consciousness.

Gibraltar, that status of EU citizens in the UK, territorial fishing rights, a so-called ‘divorce’ bill, the colour of passports, etc. are all bandied about by the media (and that’s great, they do a great job of informing the public) but which of these should be placed or not placed on the initial Top Ten list for the earliest and best success?

Only the two governments know the answers to that question.

Or, maybe they don’t. And if they don’t, there is no better day than today to place a phone call to the other leader in order to ask; ‘What points could we find early agreement on?’ Which is a wonderful way to begin any day.

I respectfully urge UK Prime Minister Theresa May and EC President Donald Tusk to ask the other; What points could we find early agreement on?

In that way, instead of the narrative defaulting to what sells newspapers, the narrative will be controlled by the leadership. That’s Leadership with a capital ‘L’ please.

Leadership, respect for the other and working towards a track record of success is the way to Build a Better Britain and the way to create a more united European Union! Anything less, is unworthy of these two great statespersons.


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