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Brexit negotiations: Four ways to get a good deal

By Emily Jones & Ngaire Woods
Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford University

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image copyrightReuters
image captionTheresa May could be at the negotiating table if she is elected as the next Tory leader

Having voted to leave the EU, the UK will now need to negotiate a new set of trade deals with the bloc, and other foreign nations as soon as possible.

But it has been more than 40 years since the UK last got around the negotiating table and it could be a little rusty. Here are four key requirements to getting a good deal.

1. An experienced and competent team

When it comes to trade deals, the devil is in the detail. Trade deals have grown incredibly complex - the recently concluded deal between the EU and Canada runs to almost 1,600 pages and covers everything from fisheries to financial services.

Successful negotiations require a skilled - and large - team, but the UK has not negotiated a trade deal since 1973. The EU has 596 trade negotiators and the UK urgently needs a similarly sized team to craft new deals with major trade partners.

A first step will be to bring back the handful of experienced and expert UK nationals in the European Commission. They will know what to expect when facing European negotiators across the table.

2. Taking the initiative

Successful negotiation involves clearly identifying your own trade interests and not simply reacting to the other side's. The UK Government must know what it wants from any deal, what it wishes to keep off the negotiating table and the concessions it is willing to make.

This is not easy. A well-prepared government will have consulted extensively with businesses, small and large, as well as consumer groups and trade unions. UK-based banks need to be able to operate across the EU single market.

Communities in the North need manufacturing industries which serve that market, potentially creating thousands of jobs. But access probably comes at the price of accepting freedom of movement for EU citizens and paying contributions to the EU budget.

3. Effective political leadership

Getting a good deal requires strong leadership which galvanizes the whole of the government's machinery, across ministries and non-governmental stakeholders.

Positions taken in the trade negotiations should be backed up by communication between national leaders where necessary. Any sign of disunity is likely to be exploited by opponents in a negotiation.

4. Preparation and strategy

As a rule of thumb, 80% of a trade negotiation is preparation, 20% execution. Important decisions are made before formal negotiations commence. The UK government should start to prepare immediately, capitalising on the time it has to form a stellar negotiating team, precisely define its national interests, and flesh out a strategy.

Going into the negotiations, the UK will need an astute strategy to get a good deal with the EU and with other trading partners. Intelligence on the other side's negotiating position and bottom lines will be crucial, as will an anticipation of how they will react at each turn.

The UK will need to have identified all potential sources of leverage, and potential allies within Europe and beyond.

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