I had a business for many years. I would go to Holland and Ireland buying young horses and importing them back to England, produce them, get them a CV and then sell them.
In the early days I had my fingers burned and quickly learned that negotiating was an art form in itself. Not everyone of course is best suited to it. Being socially awkward, lacking confidence and natural shyness are not the best ingredients for being a successful negotiator.
I established parameters, my “red lines”: I would only buy horses over three years of age and no older than seven. They had to be muscularly mature and not “backwards” in their attitude. Breeding played a big part in my decision to buy or not to.
The biggest thing of course was the price I would be prepared to pay. On top of the price was the vetting and the transport costs home. I had to be very strict with myself when making an offer or bidding at the sales in Gorsebridge. I often in the early days went over my budget plan. But nearly always when committing this sin I did not make any money and, if lucky, would break even. I therefore had to become very disciplined and bearing in mind that there is always “another horse to buy on another day”, I would often walk away, having had my bottom line offer rejected. For sure on many occasions having turned around to walk away, I would not make it to the car before the seller stopped me to accept the offer.
The watch word was “you can raise an offer, you cannot reduce one”.
Theresa May is the Prime Minister, by virtue of that fact she is charged with leading the country in the negotiations with the EU. Our withdrawal from this institution is the biggest thing to affect this country since World War 2. Is she a natural negotiator? The evidence would suggest not. Between the vote to leave and the enacting of article 50 they, the Tories, had plenty of time to establish the bottom line, known as red lines beyond which they would not go. They had plenty of time to plan for and practice their strategy and attitude toward Mr Barnier, the appointed chief negotiator.
What is clear is that they made several major and calamitous mistakes in the beginning. They published and made public those red lines. This of course forearmed the opposition. It would have buoyed them into confidence prior to entering into the talks. They went further and offered monies straight away and allowed the EU to dictate both the timetable and in what order the talks would proceed.
Our approach was one of appeasement, not strength. Our approach was that of the underdog. We set no guidelines. The Government never spoke of walking away. Given the historical bullying by the EU – you only have to google Greece to understand the attitude of this collective of unelected predominantly arrogant men. Is it any wonder then that two years later on we are no further forward and the divisions in the country are wider and deeper.
Pride is also in this case a big factor. As a senior Government politician there would, in my opinion, greater respect to be gained by admitting that negotiating is not your strength, not a skill set you have needed and therefore not gained. Failing to plan is planning to fail and that is where we are.
Cross party cooperation was needed, it still is. It never happened and I suggest never will now. The greatest most important political storm in our recent history – and politicians from different parties are so intent on the blame game that they have missed a massive opportunity to seal their places in history by coming together and working for the good of the country.
There is no evidence whatsoever that the opposing parties would have handled these negotiations any better. Only UKIP have remained true to their start position of a true and full Brexit. The Lib Dems have remained true to their overturning of the biggest democratic vote in a lifetime, which speaks for itself. Labour wake up every morning and check which way the wind is blowing before declaring what their policy is. The Tories, charged with the poison chalice, have been led throughout by people who firmly do not, despite their denials, believe in Brexit. They do not believe in that which they are negotiating. That was the first mistake made on behalf of the 17.4 million.
The press have undermined the government`s attempts at every step. The BBC derive money from the EU, lots of it. How could they therefore be impartial. The other networks have swung whichever way their owners have dictated.
This is not over. It possibly never will be, with proposed extensions to the two year period of time already agreed on, so that businesses can get their heads around Brexit. That in itself is a red herring which has been invoked on the people of this great nation.
One thing is for certain though, and that is that Teresa May needs to walk to her car and hope the EU stop her before she gets in. She can walk away, fully confident that WTO rules and trading are the “other horse to buy on another day”!