Hutton dogma

Journalist Will Hutton has a distinguished career, but in common with many journalists, communication with others is unidirectional. They write, they speak, they opine, and occasionally they debate. What they seemingly don’t have a lot experience with is negotiating.

Hutton was pontificating on the various interchanges with the EU in relation to final pattern of Brexit (a misnomer – we have left the EU and it’s over). He was highly critical of some form of agreement which approached anything like ‘no deal’, and lambasted David Frost and others for not concluding an agreement.

But no deal means, no deal. There are two parties and one of those parties cannot unilaterally effect a ‘deal’. No deal simply that means they can’t find common ground within their negotiating parameters. If all frameworks proposed violate the bottom lines of one or both parties, there can be no agreement.

Hutton, and most remainers don’t understand this simple business truth. You can always “agree” by capitulation. So If the EU said “you can have just 1% of fish from British waters or no deal – our final position” . Where is the negotiation? It’s not a failure of the negotiators if there is no agreement because the parties cannot agree within their solution constraints. Hutton would of course say “take it” ? The only logical outcome of Hutton’s approach – no deal is not acceptable – is that we accept whatever the EU decide if we want a deal. Negotiating principle 101 is broken – the determination to walk away from the table if real (as opposed to ‘ploy’) red lines are breached by some proposed agreement. Every negotiator needs a “walk away” scenario.

Whatever is decided with the EU now will have a generational effect on the UK. Do we in essence cede sovereignty to to the EU or not ? Do we have the some responsibilities of sovereign government delegated to France or Germany? Should disputes be resolved by a foreign court in which we have no participation? these are the stark choices for the UK.

The whole essence of negotiation is to have a bottom line – an “or else”. David Frost knows that if there no overlapping set of positions it’s their deal or no deal. NO businessman or government would or should accept that, and neither should UK Limited.