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A Brexit Strategy for a Weak UK Government

As Prime Minister Theresa May seeks to form a new government, she also needs to get down to the nitty-gritty of negotiating Britain’s exit from the EU. Preparations for the Brexit negotiations have been underway for some time, but they have so far been impeded by three elementary negotiating mistakes.

OXFORD – As Prime Minister Theresa May seeks to form a new government, following an election in which her Conservative Party lost its parliamentary majority, she knows that, within days, she will also need to get down to the nitty-gritty of negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union. Preparations for the Brexit negotiations have been underway for some time, but they have so far been impaired by three elementary negotiating mistakes, and now must deal with the fact that the British government’s mandate to act has been damaged severely.

The first classic mistake made thus far was for the UK government to imagine that it was headed into battle. According to this view, negotiators must obscure their real plans or intentions, as they work to seize a dominant position and, ultimately, to vanquish their foes. Throw in some elaborate deception, and it is as if we were preparing for the D-Day landings in Normandy.

But Brexit is not D-Day. Far from attempting to defeat its enemies, the United Kingdom is attempting to preserve mutually beneficial relationships with countries from which it cannot distance itself geographically – and from which it can’t afford to distance itself otherwise. It should not keep its plans secret, as it has so far done, and it certainly should not engage in brinkmanship, such as that exemplified by May’s battle cry that “no deal is better than a bad deal.”

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