Negotiated Stalemate

It speaks volumes about the state of Britain’s political leadership that it takes Trump to come over and state the obvious:

Nigel Farage should be involved in the government’s Brexit negotiations and the UK should be prepared to leave the EU with no deal, Donald Trump has said.

In a Sunday Times interview, the US president was critical of government’s Brexit negotiations, saying it left the EU “with all the cards.”

I think it’s pretty generous to describe what has taken place so far between May’s government and the EU as negotiations. It looks more akin to a conspiracy between both sides to hobble Brexit against the wishes of the majority who voted for it. The charitable view is May was too weak and incompetent to do anything else; the harsher view is she deliberately sidelined her Brexit minister and sent in the odious Olly Robbins who was working for the other side.

Thus far the EU hasn’t done anything irrational: if the May government is incompetent or willing to betray the British people, then why should they not go along with it? However, they ought to understand that the negotiations are not yet over and indeed might just be beginning. One of the basics of multicultural negotiations is to understand who all the players are, including those who might not be seated at the table. This is the basis of the consensus approach to negotiations, where all interested parties must be brought on board before a lasting deal can be struck. If the EU thinks agreeing a deal with May is the end of it, they don’t know much about negotiations.

They were clearly hoping May’s government would ram the Withdrawal Agreement down the throats of the British public, seemingly oblivious to the historical consequences of imposing deeply unpopular and humiliating conditions on whole nations. Not that I’d argue the Treaty of Versailles was unnecessarily harsh on Germany, but one cannot ignore the role the sense of betrayal had on the politics that followed. Now that has failed, the EU ought to understand that negotiations must continue. However, they are sticking with the line that there is nothing left to negotiate.

This might not be a bad move, given how feckless Britain’s political leadership is and how clueless they are at negotiation. They might as well chance their arm that the next prime minister will be a pathetic weasel willing to do their bidding, just as the last few have been. But if someone in the Tory party grows a pair, listens to Trump’s statement of the obvious, and starts preparing for No Deal the EU is going to have to shift position or end up with the dubious honour of being the worst negotiator in this entire clown show.

One of the principles of negotiation is you should focus on interests, not positions. The EU has an interest in stopping Britain’s exit from the EU, and if they can’t do that making it as painful as possible. But their member states – those who are not seated at the table – also have interests, which may differ from those of the EU. If the British want to negotiate a better agreement, they need to make proposals which serve those interests and force the EU to either listen to the member states (and their populations) or explain why they’ve been overridden. If Britain can find a prime minister which wants to leave and is prepared to weather the domestic turmoil of No Deal, they are in a strong bargaining position. If the EU refuses to negotiate further even in the face of sensible, realistic proposals from the British side, they’ll be making the next PM’s job of selling No Deal to the public a lot easier. Whether such a person exists in the British political establishment I don’t know; the fact that Trump has suggested Farage implies he doesn’t think much of the current mainstream party leadership and who can blame him? But if they do, we’re going to get a good look at just how good Barnier et al are at negotiations. Thus far they’ve not been tested, and it’s my guess they’ll be found as wanting as our own side have been. Like wars in which peacetime generals get swapped out in favour of more competent commanders after a series of reversals, negotiations often end up with completely different teams sat opposite each other than at the beginning. I think the phony war is drawing to a close and the real one just beginning. If Britain can find a proper leader, I’m betting the next major casualty will be on the EU side.

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42 thoughts on “Negotiated Stalemate

  1. For the time being I hope that EU intransigence about “not reopening the deal” continues as that seems to be the best route of getting a no deal.

    The worst thing right now would be for the EU to remove their main poison pill (the Irish Backstop), but leave the rest of the crap in the Withdrawal Agreement. This might actually get passed by the HoC as it stands which would be worse than not leaving at all.

  2. As soon as the referendum result was in – maybe before – each government department should have drawn up plans for every conceivable kind of deal and no deal. That’s how organisations work. Think of military wargaming and how successful corporations plan ahead. The panic towards the end of the life of May’s WA showed that there was no planning at all, other than how they might smoothly implement their favoured option. That is either rank incompetence, or treason, or both. Our Civil Service is utterly useless and needs purging.

  3. The other point is that the deal is so manifestly awful that a future British Government will revoke it, causing an awful lot more pain than would come from a no deal exit.

  4. “One of the basics of multicultural negotiations is to understand who all the players are, including those who might not be seated at the table. “

    Some of the players not seated at the table might include the 35% of UK citizens who voted in the referendum to stay in the EU and the 28% who chose not to vote. Not saying anything nice here about the soon-departed Mrs May or the entire Tory Party or the rest of the tossers in the House of Commons — but we can’t avoid the reality that the UK is a House Divided.

    The big failure has not been the incompetent negotiators. It has been the abject failure of the doughty Brexiteers over the last 3 years to build on their narrow plurality in the referendum and swing the opposers and doubters over to support for separation from the EU.

    As things stand, the situation is most likely to end in a No Deal Brexit, causing various kinds of short term disruptions — which will put even more strains on the highly divided population of the UK. The ramifications are difficult to predict. Let’s hope for the best.

  5. The big failure has not been the incompetent negotiators. It has been the abject failure of the doughty Brexiteers over the last 3 years to build on their narrow plurality in the referendum and swing the opposers and doubters over to support for separation from the EU.

    I’m afraid I don’t agree. Brexiteers had an obligation to put a plan in place (as did Cameron) for leaving, but they were under no obligation to continue campaigning once the referendum was held.

  6. “The big failure has not been the incompetent negotiators. It has been the abject failure of the doughty Brexiteers over the last 3 years to build on their narrow plurality in the referendum and swing the opposers and doubters over to support for separation from the EU.”

    And how precisely were they to do that when 2/3rds of the HoC and virtually the entire Civil Service were Remainers?

    This argument p*sses me off immensely, as it entirely ignores the fact that the whole point about the Brexit fiasco has been that the referendum side that won had no power to impose their victory. It had to be done by the losing side in effect, and the losing side refused to implement the referendum result. Its as if a party wins a General Election, but all the MPs stay the same in the HoC and the winners have to rely on the losers MPs to get their manifesto into law. How likely is that to happen do you think? If Corbyn won a small but overall majority on a platform of nationalising everything but there was an anti-nationalisation majority still in Parliament, do you think he’d be responsible for ‘not building on the small plurality of his election victory’ when the parliament managed to stymie his plans entirely? No, he and his voters would be extremely p*ssed off that the victory they had legitimately won had been taken away from them by undemocratic means.

  7. It’s going to be an interesting week, the shrieking from the leftists is going to be deafening.

    @Gavin- there have been plenty of plans been put forward for year by leavers, trouble is that none of them were in a position to implement, plus they (incorrectly) thought May was actually going to do it properly (look up Steve Baker being interviewed after he quit as a DXEU minister, he describes how the Canada plus deal they were working on was sidelined by Mays WA).

  8. I have also always maintained that May was put in to scupper Brexit. Now that I have made the decision not to engage in political discussions unless it is in a political forum, and that I am in the UK at the moment, I just watch on in total amazement. Brits do know how to negotiate, and those that have been charged with negotiating Brexit have met their negotiating objectives to date.

  9. ” If Britain can find a proper leader, I’m betting the next major casualty will be on the EU side.”

    This is true, but I’m horribly afraid that that “if” at the start is doing a great deal of heavy lifting.

  10. I think the EU has been playing fo a no-deal all along, and is likely to get this. It’s a common criticism of democracy that no government can think beyond the next electoral cycle. The technocratic level of the EU is a step removed (though not so far removed as some think) from that, and does play a longer game as a result.

    You might not be obliged to say what you think Brexit should look like when campaining for it, but it would be nice, woudln’t it? Otherwise you are offering the archetypal simple solution to a complex problem. It isn’t the case that “out, whatever it looks like” is better than in, there are values of “out looks like this” that are much worse. The Brexit phalanx is as guilty of lacking a positive and optimistic vision for the future of the country as those they now accuse of throwing the match.

    Bardon, nice to hear from you again, I was wondering what was up.

    Declaration of interest: no surprise to any here that I am a remainer, but believe Brexit should happen because: democracy. Including no deal if there is no deal.

  11. “You might not be obliged to say what you think Brexit should look like when campaigning for it, but it would be nice, wouldn’t it? ”

    You mean the way Remain set out what they saw as the way forward for the EU they were campaigning to Remain in? Ie to let those voting Remain know what they were letting themselves in for? I mean they totally did that didn’t they……….

  12. The worst thing right now would be for the EU to remove their main poison pill (the Irish Backstop), but leave the rest of the crap in the Withdrawal Agreement. This might actually get passed by the HoC as it stands which would be worse than not leaving at all.

    Its a while since I looked at it but a number of serious Brexiteers including JR-M, IIRC, thought it was a good deal without the Backstop.

    Incidentally, where is JR-M, he seems to have disappeared?

  13. Some of the players not seated at the table might include the 35% of UK citizens who voted in the referendum to stay in the EU and the 28% who chose not to vote. (my emphasis)

    Rowlocks. Those who *chose* not to vote were saying they accepted the decision of those who did vote. I’ll bet you wouldn’t have been willing to admit them as Leavers if the vote had been 52%-48% the other way.

    As things stand, the situation is most likely to end in a No Deal Brexit, causing various kinds of short term disruptions — which will put even more strains on the highly divided population of the UK. The ramifications are difficult to predict. Let’s hope for the best.

    Indeed there will. And why? While Remainers have been doing their damndest to thwart Brexit the EU has been preparing for No Deal:

    Other no-deal preparations
    In addition to implementing the EU’s no-deal preparedness legislation, Member States have also made their own plans to mitigate the impact of ‘no deal’ on their economy, trade, business, services, transport and a range of other sectors. Many have planned border and customs adaptations, for example. Those with major ports (e.g. Belgium) and significant trade with UK (e.g. the Netherlands) have provided extra border infrastructure and new technology systems, and recruited extra customs or veterinary staff (e.g. France, Ireland, Poland, Netherlands, Spain). Portugal is planning to open special lanes for UK tourists at airports.

    HT @RuthLeaEcon

  14. I think the EU has been playing fo a no-deal all along, and is likely to get this.

    They’d not have agreed to the Art 50 extension if that were the case.

  15. BiND

    This is horrific. Basically, the politicians in the UK are incapable of doing their jobs. If the EU can out-manœuvre us, what hope do we have? Maybe we should get our strimmers out and march on Whitehall

  16. Trump is under the misconception that UK Gov’t is still an allie; Frankfurt School stooges May et al have decreed we’re not. We’re Sino/RoP allies; disagree – as most do – and the thought police will arrange for you to be bricked and lock you up – see TR

    Islamic Call for Prayers held at Wembley stadium last night for 1st time ever
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROjJo95KQrM

    TR: Milkshakes: A good test: go up to a policeman, throw a milkshake over said policeman and see if they find it funny

  17. “You mean the way Remain set out what they saw as the way forward for the EU they were campaigning to Remain in? ”

    Oh, come on! That’s obviously just “stay in the big superstate which we have every year less influence over”!

  18. Thing to remember in any negotiation is it’s not a zero sum game. The value each side puts on each negotiation point will be different because both sides are trying to achieve different aims. So a good negotiator will not only be trying to maximise the advantage for his own side but also maximise the advantage for the other side, at the least cost to his own. Trying to work towards the sweet spot where both sides get the maximum benefit from the negotiation.

    I do have some sympathy with Gavin Longmuir when he says ” It has been the abject failure of the doughty Brexiteers over the last 3 years to build on their narrow plurality in the referendum and swing the opposers and doubters over to support for separation from the EU ” The Brexit side did seem to regard their victory in the Referendum as having won the war rather than as an opening battle in what would be a long campaign. If they expected the Remain side to “play fair” & accept the result, they were incredibly naive. There was obviously a coalition between all players in the political establishment to try & stop Brexit because they’d all campaigned for the Remain side. The time to start the Brexit Party was the day after the referendum result, not three years later.

  19. “That’s obviously just “stay in the big superstate which we have every year less influence over”!”

    Its obvious to you, and obvious to me, but did the Remain campaign ever mention such things once? Did they use them as positives to gather votes? ‘Vote Remain for a Euro Army’, ‘Vote Remain for No UK Rebate’ ‘Vote Remain for a Common EU Tax Policy’ ‘Vote Remain for more countries entering the EU and populations being allowed to come to the UK’? Or did they keep shtum on the whole future direction of the EU thing in order not to frighten the horses? Did they imply that remaining meant everything stayed exactly the same as it is now and would always be so?

    I think we know the answer to that. The entire Remain campaign was a litany of fear about what would happen if we voted Leave, and not one word was spoken about the wonderful future in the EU we could expect if we voted Remain, because there wasn’t one, at least not one that would inspire the UK electorate to vote to stay at least.

  20. “The Brexit side did seem to regard their victory in the Referendum as having won the war rather than as an opening battle in what would be a long campaign. ”

    And what exactly could they do in this campaign? They had very few MPs, weren’t the Government, and had no voice in the Civil Service either. So how exactly could they have influenced things? Going round the country having meetings? ‘Come on chaps, I know you just voted to Leave, but you must come along to our rally all about how important Brexit is, and how we must formulate our plans to implement it, even though we have zero say in anything the Government does, and have no access to the Civil Service either’?

    The Brexit vote was like a school headmaster giving his pupils a vote on whether to have uniform or not and assuming he’d win it. And then reneging on implementing the outcome because he lost. Would you blame the winning pupils for not having continued their campaign, having won the vote? When the failure to implement their vote lay entirely at the feet of those in charge refusing to accept the outcome?

    This a a clearcut case of the Establishment picking up the ball and going home with it because they’re losing 3-0. There is nothing the other team can do about it.

  21. “Steve Baker being interviewed after he quit as a DXEU minister, he describes how the Canada plus deal they were working on was sidelined by Mays WA”

    One of the most interesting events from the past 3 years has been May sudden switch. One day we had sensible red lines and her dept for leaving preparing a Canada style plan; then out of the blue the WA designed to bind the UK to the EU tighter and more permanently was suddenly her strategy. And one pursued despite the enormous harm to her reputation, the parties polling, etc.

    I have never seen a good explanation for why she flipped course in such a dramatic and suicidal fashion. The press are happy with the WA (they are mostly remain), and this is no longer news so they don’t cover it.

    Yet that switch is probably the key event in the past 3 years and the move that is hardest to explain.

  22. Jim, I will try to remember to add [irony] tags in future, just for you.

    As to your actual points, yes, all ideas that have been floated by various EU wonks, nothing in place, and who knows if there ever will be. That’s thanks to the British media’s breathless reporting of every crazy idea some eurocrat mentions as something that’s already set in stone, rather than thinking out loud.

  23. @ Jim 10:38
    The same could have been said about the Brexit Party, 8 weeks ago.

    I was very disappointed with UKIP & Farage, after the Leave result came in. He retired & the party collapsed in disarray. I was asking someone very close to the UKIP leadership what their plans were, should they get a referendum & win it before Cameron conceded one. I was told to wait & see. I waited & I saw. Bugger all.
    I see it as the Cricket Effect. The delusion that there are rules & one should play fair by them. That’s not even true in sport at the higher levels. You should never give a sucker an even break. If you can cheat, cheat. You can count on your adversary will. Only the result matters. Leavers should have been holding the political establishment’s feet to the fire on delivering Brexit, right from the off.

  24. BiS–Correct. Won’t make the same mistake again.

    ISP–Treason May ALWAYS intended on the switch. The basic script was handed to her prob by Mutti Merkin before 2016 was out. Treason’s foolery in swallowing the leftist pollsters 20% lead shite in June 2017 was because of her hope for 150 majority of chinless BluLab wonder MPs to vote the 2018 betrayal through without demur.

    When that failed she only had the choice to brass her treason out–hence the phone confiscation and “walk back along the drive shite”. of Chequers.

    Why someone in that Cabinet hasn’t punched her long ago is a mystery to me. She needs to be tried for treason and publicly hanged.

    Longmuir–Those who lost the vote–lost. No special favours after that. Had it gone the other way Leave would have got none. Those who didn’t bother their arses to vote get nothing.

  25. The Leave campaigns promised unicorns with no plan to deliver them. There are various explanations offered e.g. it was somebody else’s job (usually ‘Remoaners’) to deliver the unicorns, the ‘EU needs us more than we need them (chortle)’ so they’ll give us unicorns, the professionals appointed didn’t know how to negotiate unicorns (who does?), ‘Remoaners’ kept hiding the plan for unicorns, the dog ate the plan, the unicorns were only ever an ‘aspiration’, or (the currently fashionable revisionist stance) the unicorns are a false memory we were always going WTO because that’s how all the other major economies trade (honest) until they become US rule takers…

    It doesn’t really matter, there are no unicorns, either we find a way of maintaining the framework underpinning our economy for the last 50 years, or we have a short period under WTO till we become a US rule taker. Trump wants No Deal because he knows we’ll have to become a US rule taker to make up the shortfall between trade power inside the EU and outside of it. There’s a whole US corporate lobby chomping at the bit for this. He’s throwing Farage in the mix because he’s linked to that lobby ticket and he’ll hinder the professionals. Farage himself has fuck all experience as a trade negotiator, his schtick is as a populist agitator with dubious backers, as an MEP he can’t be arsed getting involved in the day to details of the stuff he claims to care about!

  26. Ecks,

    Anyone who will refuse to oppose something that should be opposed on the basis that they’d then get fired and have to call a taxi rather than take a ministerial limousine for one last journey clearly has all the integrity, principles, guts, balls, and commitment to delivering the will of the electorate of, well, I guess, of a tory cabinet minister.

  27. I used to think the EU were playing hardball but now I think they just don’t care. The UK is not essential to the project, it can stay as the EU’s dog or fuck off, either is fine.

    I am probably naive, but I believe the EU is telling the truth when they say there is no deal, there never was a deal, there never will be a deal. They have to do the “you’re dead to me” routine to keep the other states in line.

    The EU has also said there will not be any further extension unless the UK holds another vote. (The extension was granted on the condition there would some resolution.) If the EU is telling the truth, then no deal exit at the end of October is a certainty. The only thing that can derail that is the government strapping on the suicide vest and revoking A50 or accepting the WA.

    The curious thing to me is why the UK government sees EU membership as so much more important than the EU does.

  28. “The Leave campaigns promised unicorns with no plan to deliver them. ”

    How f*cking could they??? Regardless of whether they were unicorns or not? This wasn’t an election, Parliament wasn’t going to be flooded with Leave MPs as a result of a leave win. Parliament was going to look exactly the same after the vote as before it, a two thirds Remain majority basically. Its not as if David Cameron said ‘Right, the Leave campaign have won, we as the UK Government will now give them sole power to develop our new relationship with the EU, and the Tory Party will back whatever is decided as a matter of democratic principle, force it through’ now is it? If he had, and we were still in this mess, then you could blame Leave for f*cking it up. As it is all the blame lies entirely with the Remain majority in Parliament, they are who have gotten us here.

    Remember the leaflet we were all sent ‘We will implement your choice?’ Well have they?

  29. EU membership is a textbook example of the sunk cost fallacy. European unity seemed a good idea, until we saw the project in practice. Remain’s hope that the gammons will die off and a second referendum will deliver the right result is illusory.

  30. A bit off topic. Has anyone else remarked the uncanny resemblance of Michael Gove and Rory Stewart? Why, they could be brother and sister!

  31. @Jim, the problem is magical thinking. Having a vote to do something is one thing, expecting someone else, who probably thinks the idea is batshit, to come up with a workable plan as an afterthought is entirely different proposition. Nobody voted to give Leave sole power to determine the relationship with the EU, the Leave campaigns never even claimed it was, the comes from the same revisionist camp as ‘we were aiming for the WTO safety net all along’. Leave promised unicorns, leave have never explained how unicorns are to be delivered. Whether it’s the ERG or Farage Party mk 1 or Farage Party mk 2, doesn’t matter, none of them have come up with a remotely coherent plan for delivering those unicorns and it’s either someone else’s fault, or more recently attempts reimagine those unicorns as a lovely cup of cold sick.

  32. @BiG “Bardon, nice to hear from you again, I was wondering what was up.”

    All good mate just in the back end of that trip I done in the Balkan’s and catching up with family in UK doing a pilgrimage thing with mum at Iona Abbey.

    And thanks heaps for your travel tips for the Balkan’s, you were absolutely bang on with all of them, which were very useful for me.

    I have had the trip of a lifetime, and found the last pieces of the Byzantine jigsaw during the trip and didn’t have much spare time to jump in here for a pint. Now on a ferry from Mull to Oban that has t’internet.

    The UK highlight was flying into Mud Island and putting “retired” under occupation on my entry card! The other one as well as Iona was exploring the Forth Clyde Union Canal which has reopened.

  33. “Having a vote to do something is one thing, expecting someone else, who probably thinks the idea is batshit, to come up with a workable plan as an afterthought is entirely different proposition. ”

    Leave have lots of workable plans, including trading under WTO rules (as other countries do) and having a free trade agreement with the EU (as lots of other countries do). But they weren’t given the opportunity to negotiate such agreements. As mentioned above, the Canada + option was shot down by the Remainiac Establishment in favour of the WA shitstorm we have today. Whose fault it that, Nigel Farage’s?

    And Leave didn’t ‘expect’ someone else to implement Brexit, thats the only option – as I keep pointing out, Leave have no power. They control nothing. They had to let the Government of the day implement Brexit, how could they do otherwise? Seize control in a military coup? I’ll guarantee you if Parliament had offered Boris and Nigel the power to negotiate Brexit they’d have grabbed it with both hands. But they weren’t so how exactly is it their fault that the people who did are treasonous arseholes?

  34. @Bardon

    Congratulations on your retirement! You have overcome the time inconsistency problem – that if you say “I’ll retire in two years”, then in two years you can find yourself saying “I’ll retire in two years” again. How did you persuade yourself that this really was it?

  35. @ Jim,
    Leave made various claims that were magical thinking such as the deal with the EU being quick and easy, the EU ‘needing us more than we needed them’, that we’d do quick and easy trade deals with fast growing economies. In reality there are no quick and easy deals with the EU because we’re too closely integrated, those other countries prioritise the EU because it’s the bigger market, the deals with take years, and besides those fast growing economies are too small, too few and too far away to plug the position being asked of them. Saying Leave hasn’t been given the chance to negotiate unicorns so they don’t really need to tell us how they’d do it is just more magical thinking, Canada+, Norway+ etc etc… they’re not going to deliver what was promised and WTO is basically the safety net used by small countries who trade buttons with each other. But it’s a red herring anyway as those pushing it are basically shills for US rule taker lobby (Take back control! Now give in to the US!).

    And I really don’t see how people think Boris and Farage have the capability to negotiate the unicorns, given that between them they have fuck all experience of negotiating anything and both of them lack the commitment to get stuck into the details. In fact it’s part of both of their schticks that they don’t do such heavy lifting. I accept it’s not unknown to promise unrealistic outcomes to win elections and then quietly drop them later, but this is a different level. There is no plan from Leave that makes the UK better off economically and that’s not down to Remoaners or Remaniaks or Civil Servants or the EU. Magical thinking all the way!

  36. “There is no plan from Leave that makes the UK better off economically”

    Yes there is, unilateral free trade under WTO rules. Maybe not in the short term, but in the long run we’d be far better off. And you saying ‘Oh no we wouldn’t!’ is just ‘magical thinking’ from you, because you can’t say I’m wrong, because the future hasn’t happened. So stop talking utter BS. Only one side has made economic predictions over Brexit, and we know how those turned out…….

  37. @MJW

    Leave never promised unicorns. It merely pointed out that we sent £350m per week to the EU. They then spend it on some stuff that we may or may not like.

    All the remoaners wailing that the EU funds their pet projects were never called out on this with the simple rejoinder “we are net contributors. You can have your pet project funded and we’ll STILL be better off. Now: why should a dustman pay for your pet project?”.

    Not once was that argument used. Not once. The fact that it was not shows how much in the hole for the EU the whole establishment and MSM was.

    Quite aside from that, all the way through the campaign, Leavers were being called out as shortsighted and selling out the future of their grandchildren. Now all we hear is about the impact in the next few years. Well bugger off. Which one is it?

  38. @Jim on June 3, 2019 at 10:25 am

    The entire Remain campaign was a litany of fear about what would happen if we voted Leave, and not one word was spoken about the wonderful future in the EU we could expect if we voted Remain, because there wasn’t one

    +1

    Unfortunately too few realised this and they still don’t. Over on Arrse there are remainers who deny May/Robins/Sedwill signed UK up to EU defence treaties in 2017

    52% Leave was miraculous

  39. @isp001 on June 3, 2019 at 10:45 am

    Steve Baker refers to Raab

    Many now want Raab as next PM as BoJo is not trustworthy?

    All MPs who voted in favour of May/EU Surrender Treaty are not trustworthy

    BoJo has my backing

  40. @MBE – “Congratulations on your retirement! You have overcome the time inconsistency problem – that if you say “I’ll retire in two years”, then in two years you can find yourself saying “I’ll retire in two years” again.How did you persuade yourself that this really was it?”

    Thank you for your congratulations and encouragement which is much appreciated.

    I think that you had mentioned this very real condition before, yes, it is very difficult for a 55yo bread-wining male to make the decision to walk away from a position and package that would be highly unlikely to get back into, and just another two years could quite likely be the ongoing excuse not to make the move. When it came to it, it was completely unexpected, although an easy decision for me (a self-confessed bread head) to make at the time.

    During the Christmas holiday, I decided to give my firm another two years, see them through a listing, and depart when my shareholdings were liquid. This was also the discussion I had had with the owners and we were all on board with this commitment of mine and that was my plan at the start of the year.

    Within a fortnight of returning from holiday, one of the owners messaged me on the Saturday to ask if I could meet him for a coffee on Sunday and prior to him leaving the country the next day. Nothing unusual here, we quite often do this, and I suggested a place and he said that he would prefer that we met in the office, we both live close to the office, so no great inconvenience in getting there, but a strange request indeed. I asked him what he wanted to talk about or was it a mystery tour, he said it was a mystery tour and I joked that I would bring sandwiches and soft drinks along for the journey. I wasn’t sure if the other owner who was also in the country at the time would be attending as well, he didn’t.

    So, I met with him in the office and he asked me if everything was alright and that he had noticed of late that I was more cranky than usual, and that I had been short with him a few times and that I also baled up the new MD in front of others, which he said was not like me. I have the utmost respect for this bloke and said to him that it wasn’t good for me, the staff and him if I had been seen to have baled him and others up, and that there was no specific issue that was bugging me. We talked a bit more and I said to him that sometimes there is no point in trying to find a reason why something isn’t working and that the best thing for me to do would be to call it quits. He didn’t expect that and said that we should discuss it further when he returned in a fortnight, we left it at that and we departed in good terms.

    On the drive home I made up my mind that I was leaving, told my wife, who has supported me for nearly thirty years with not a single complaint about the demands of my professional life and said that it was the right decision and she was glad that I had made it.

    There was some further discussions with the other owner that I have worked with over the years at a breakfast meeting and in the end he agreed with me when I suggested that I should leave.

    There was some negotiation on the settlement terms, which were very generous, the board also waived my LTI shares (not my main shares) from lapsing on departure, agreed to pay me discretionary bonuses, nine months gardening leave and made me a very attractive return later as a consultant offer through my trust which is very tax efficient for me, as opposed to being a pay as you go direct employee.

    So, in the end, it just happened in the space of a couple of days and it was absolutely the right thing to do.

    Both owners have told me since that they want me back. My thoughts are that I am too young to retire and while my shares are illiquid and my other investments are still growing I will need cash flow to fund my lifestyle and family expenses.

    In all likelihood, I think that next year, I will end up doing some consultancy work for them and say another two local clients for assignments that interest me and spend more time with my wife and two sons.

    One other relevant point is that in my thirties I said to myself that I would get out of the fast lane at 55, it wasn’t something foremost in my mind but it may not be a mere coincidence that I turned 55 during the Christmas break and about three weeks before I decided to leave.

  41. @Bardon

    Nice – enjoy it.

    Though my experience of self-employment and the difficulty saying “no” to consulting gigs is that you might still be a busy, albeit richer, man in two years’ time!

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