Monday, 19 November 2018


Thinking about the turmoil over Brexit I recalled a story which struck me as relevant:

“Once upon a time friend of mine (I call him that but he constantly irritated me by being so misanthropic) decided that he was getting fed up with his job. Odd that because he had a very senior position in a huge corporation. You could hardly call him a team player but he was well paid and well favoured despite his mood swings. It was a job with some special trimmings like a super car for him, one for his wife, a gold plated pension and cheap holidays in the Mediterranean. Lucky chap. But that wasn’t enough; he wanted to be independent.

So he resigned.

He started negotiating what he called his exit package. It took a long time and it didn’t go too well. I remember listening to him going on about his wife’s reaction to her car being taken away and what he called ‘naked constraint of trade’ because of the clauses they’d inserted in his severance agreement. He got rather aggressive when I suggested his quietly trying to steal some of the corporation’s clients wasn’t on.

He’d snapped that I was being soft.

“The only thing these people understand is a damn good thrashing…I’ll demand they give me what I deserve…look at what I’ve done for them…I’m not going to be bullied…frankly they can keep their miserable money. I’ll just quit and start all over. Easy. I’ll outsell, under-price and outwit them. Then they’ll be sorry.”

He’d got a bit drunk one night and said this as I recall:

“It’s my talent and my honour that matters. When I shave in the morning I want to look in the mirror and say: I’m my own man. I’ll tell them to get stuffed.” When like that there was no reasoning with him."

Matthew Paris in Saturday’s Times wrote that the UK was the petitioner not the aggrieved party. Like my friend there’s a disconnect between  the grumpy treaty-objectors and the reality of the situation. The UK resigned, not the other way round. When you resign you get what you can.

Listen to what business said last week, that the agreement might not be perfect but it was more or less OK and please can we just say ‘yes’ and get on with it. Business people understand deals and pragmatic negotiations. They look at the histogram below and say – big market – be realistic - carry on trading/working there devoid of friction. Negotiations can’t go on forever and can very seldom be started again.

Politicians only understand power and tomorrow’s headlines. It serves them and us ill at times like this. But I try to avoid politics - it’s not my thing and as I watch the current pantomime, I wonder who could possibly enjoy it or  benefit from it. 

RA Butler Tory politician in the 1950s called politics ”the art of the possible”. I wonder what he’d make of all this.

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