L. Alan Winters is Professor of Economics and Director of the UKTPO
Rule 1 for negotiation: work out what you want and how much you can pay for it.
Rule 2: try to understand where the other side is coming from and how they feel.
The muted mood this week among trade specialists in Sweden, one of the UK’s closest allies in the EU, should serve as a reality check ahead of Brexit negotiations. If we want to make Brexit work, we need to take their views seriously.
The Swedish Parliament building in Stockholm. Photo by Ankara (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Earlier this week I was in Stockholm discussing post-Brexit trade policy to two well-informed audiences: at the KommersKollegium – the National Board of Trade in Sweden – and at the Stockholm Liberal Club.
I made much the same points as we made at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Public Forum at the end of September and then sought views from the audience. They were pretty salutary, especially given that I had imagined that Stockholm would be one of the European capitals most sympathetic to the UK position.
Among the points I heard, and in some cases tried to counter, were:
These views do not mean that it is impossible to achieve a softer Brexit, and to do so over a longer period of time than two years, but they certainly suggest that it will require some quick but credible re-assurance to business and our partners followed by a sustained focus and diplomatic effort by the UK authorities.
Swedish exporters find exporting to Norway far more troublesome than exporting within the EU. This chimes with the UKTPO’s argument that the EEA is not a simple alternative to belonging to the EU customs union and Single Market (see: Roos And Rules: Why The EEA Is Not The Same As Membership Of The Single Market Briefing Paper).
Negotiating an effective Brexit is not a battle, but I am reminded of Helmuth von Moltke’s advice that ‘No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy’. To formulate a workable plan the UK government and commentariat is going to need to invest heavily in understanding the other side of the table.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author alone and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the University of Sussex or UK Trade Policy Observatory.
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