Negotiating the impossible: how to avoid a Brexit-like divorce

Withdrawal Agreement, No deal, Norway-type deal, Article 50, backstop, Chequers, People’s Vote, the Irish border, in, out, in, out, shake it all about, do the hokey-cokey. That’s what it’s all about.

If the hokey-cokey’s really what it’s all about, we’re in bigger trouble than we thought. And Brexit has certainly got us in a heap of trouble.

Could politicians be making the path as long and torturous as possible so that we can all see just how impossible Brexit is? So we can have a revote, or a revolt, and we’ll all stay Euro-chums forever?

In some ways, Brexit has been a lot like divorce. Except that divorces tend to reach some kind of conclusion. Nobody wants a protracted, costly and toxic negotiation that splits the wider family. Because a constructive and ongoing post-divorce relationship is important, especially if kids (or British subjects) are involved.

Here’s how we recommend you proceed:

8 top questions to ask

1 What are the major issues?

List what you think they are and what you think the other side will say they are. Talk to your lawyer to forge a strategy. People are creatures of habit: they’ll hang on to old behaviours even though new information tells them it’s no longer appropriate.
Don’t put blinkers on and hope for the best. And don’t get involved in intense, redundant deliberation over your choices for no gain.

2 What is to be paid to or received by you?

Think capital lump sums, pension-sharing and maintenance. Don’t focus on who gets the dining-room table and chairs.

3 What is the legal context?

The law can’t magic up resources and assets that don’t exist. Focus on concrete goals rather than abstract goals.

4 What leverage or influence do you have?

Here’s a clue: the answer isn’t children! Never, ever. Again, don’t get involved in intense, redundant deliberation over your choices for no gain.

5 Who has the greater leverage?

Be aware that your perception might be wrong.

6 What are the key barriers and what are false promises?

If the other party says you’ll be ‘looked after’ and they’ll be fair, don’t get your hopes up. They might not have a realistic view of what they can offer. Either way, it’s best to be realistic at the outset.

7 What are the strategic obstacles?

This could be an interest in a family business where others are involved or external cooperation is necessary. It could be a valuation issue. Try to focus on optimising good outcomes rather than avoiding bad ones. Have a tight deadline and clear goals to reduce indecision and force more decisive action.

8 What are the possible outcomes?

Realistic legal and financial advice is vital.

The objective is not to win

Wait a minute, you thought the object of negotiation was to win? Don’t be silly.

Smart negotiators know that your goal should be achieving your objectives. The outcome depends on how each side plays the cards it’s dealt.
You’ll need to get expert advice on several of the paths forward.

One thing you shouldn’t do is take aggressive unilateral steps to improve your bargaining position without considering how this might escalate things in the other camp.

Instead, consider talks, whether formal or informal. These conversations are a chance to shape expectations, coordinate on process, build rapport and create trust before deal-making proper starts. Such early moves can produce huge dividends when the substantive deal-making kicks off.

Ready for action now? Great. Just be thankful your decree absolute and associated financial Order doesn’t have to be ratified by 28 member states.

For an initial FREE consultation on any aspect of family law, call Manders Law on 01245 895 105 or email us here.

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