Brexit negotiations present a soup of toxic ingredients familiar to any commercial mediator: high stakes, high emotions, personality clashes, lack of preparation, restricted time and a misconceived negotiation strategy.
At stake is the world order that has kept the peace in Western Europe for seventy years. The EU’s founding premise was to bind France and Germany in so tight an embrace that they could never again raise arms against each other. The Brexiteers are far from unified, but reject the status quo. At their outer fringes they rejoice in the possibility that Brexit could trigger the EU’s ultimate destruction. Their vision is a Europe of disaggregated independent states, with strong borders and restrictions on free movement of people.
The backdrop to these competing visions is emotional and antagonistic: threats of civil disobedience, coupled with a surge in hate crime and the murder of a Member of Parliament, hint at the likely social cost of an unsatisfactory outcome to negotiations. The economic cost of failure is likewise grave, and would fall disproportionately on the UK where lower investment, lower productivity, higher inflation and increased government borrowing could impact generations as yet unborn.