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What do Theresa May and the EU, the EU and Donald Trump, Emmanuel Macron and the Gilets Jaunes have in common?

The Harvard approach known as The mutual gains strategy "One of the key conditions for the success of any negotiation is to have a good alternative to a negotiated agreement before it even starts (MESORE). In other words, to have a viable solution that satisfies our interests and that we can implement unilaterally in the event of disagreement. There are in fact three types of MESORE : exit doorpunchthird party.

Now, whether it is the United Kingdom in the Brexit negotiations, Europe faced with the extraterritoriality of American justice imposed on its companies for their business with Iran or the unprecedented Yellow Vests crisis which drags on despite the government's overtures, these situations have a common denominator: the weakness or absence of a solid MESORE.

The Brexit negotiations


In the marathon Brexit negotiations that lasted over two years and were led on the EU side by Michel Barnier (supported by a team of around sixty people), the border with Northern Ireland was the final sticking point. The way out was found thanks to a judicious mechanism known as the " Backstop " (safety net) whereby the whole of the United Kingdom remains a member of the European customs union. However, this solution riles up the opponents of the agreement and has hampered its ratification.

For the UK, leaving the EU without an agreement on 29 March, among many other negative consequences, would mean the return of a hard border with real customs controls between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This would mean a huge risk of calling into question the historic Good Friday Agreement for peace in Northern Ireland. It was negotiated over twenty years ago by Tony Blair between Protestant unionists and Catholic republicans.

A "No deal" would inexorably inflame community tensions. Although theoretically conceivable, particularly for pro-Brexiteers, it would in reality be a PISORE: the Worst Alternative to a negotiated agreement. As things stand at present, nobody knows what negotiated solution might be acceptable to both parties.

Extraterritorialisation of US law

The Bretton Woods economic agreements signed and accepted by the United States in 1944 organised the world monetary system around the US dollar. Henceforth, all currencies would be defined in dollars and only the dollar would be defined in gold. The aim was to promote the reconstruction and economic development of countries affected by the war. The implicit rule was that countries would not ask for the dollars they received to be converted into gold, and the Americans would maintain the value of their currency and prevent it from spiralling out of control. In return, their national laws applied to their international transactions. In fact, the Americans put their money to work and unilaterally abolished gold convertibility in 1971.

But for the last fifteen years or so, extraterritorialization American law no longer recognises the sovereignty of national laws as soon as transactions with countries under American embargo (Iran, Cuba, Sudan) are conducted in dollars. Unfortunately, it is still difficult to do without it in international trade. As a result, there have been resounding examples of very severe sanctions imposed on European companies (BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole, Deutsche Bank, Alstom, etc.). By not respecting their commitments and forcing European companies to submit to American law, the USA is demonstrating its desire for hegemony and omnipotence over the world economy. This is a sign of scandalous arrogance towards the countries concerned, which, moreover, are allies.

Why is Europe powerless to protect its companies? Here again, the reason has been the inability to find a MEASURE that would allow it to circumvent American justice. As a result, all European companies, including French champions such as PSA and Renault, have bowed to US demands and halted their activities in Iran to avoid being excluded from the American market. Fortunately, this issue has been tackled head-on by Europe, which for months has been seeking to bypass the American diktat. In order to improve their MESORE and no longer be helpless, the Europeans are considering creating an ad hoc structure called SPV or " special vehicle ". This financial mechanism, which has yet to be finalised, would enable European companies to maintain their trade with Iran while avoiding US sanctions. How would it work? The SPV " would act as an intermediary between European companies and Iran, as in a barter system ". If this system is successful, it will be a great example of an "Alternative Solution". exit door ".

The yellow waistcoats crisis

What is striking about the "yellow waistcoats" crisis is the support the movement has received from the French people over the last two months. The initial demands (abolition of fuel tax, increased purchasing power, abolition of the CSG increase for pensioners earning more than €1,300) were greeted with understanding and then approval by a large majority of citizens. Depending on the time and the poll, this sympathy ranged from 51 to 75 %. Moreover, despite the evolution of the demands, some of which have become more than extravagant (resignation of the President, the Prime Minister, dissolution of the Assembly, and so on...) and above all the violence and outrage that have accompanied the demonstrations, there has not been a massive turnaround or rejection on the part of the public.

So, unlike the conflict generated by the SNCF reform where public opinion showed 75% understanding in favour of the government which enabled it to hold out, for this crisis the latter has not benefited from the sizeable ally constituted by the so-called silent majority. When we add to this the difficulty or refusal of the various 'yellow waistcoat' movements to designate representatives capable of being credible partners in the negotiations proposed (admittedly with delay) by the government, it is easy to understand why the latter seemed disorientated and plunged into total embarrassment.

To put it another way, on the one hand the government has been deprived of the so-called "MESORE". third party On the other hand, he has another type of MESORE, called the "public" (made up of the rest of the citizens), which would have legitimised his decisions. On the other hand, while he has another type of MESORE called " punch "The French government has the right to call on the forces of law and order to ensure the safety of people, property and the law, but it must do so with a great deal of discernment (despite the provocations and violence of the rioters opposite). Indeed, it had to avoid at all costs any tragedy that might later be blamed on it. However, despite the "restraint" shown by the forces of law and order overall, some "angelic" people find fault and do not hesitate to accuse the government and President Emmanuel Macron of being repressive.

The "Grand Débat" certainly offers the best way out for the government, even if the complexity of the process makes the outcome uncertain in terms of the expectations that will be expressed. E. Macron has nevertheless avoided the trap of giving the answers before the end of this original and unprecedented consultation.

In conclusion

These three examples indisputably demonstrate the relevance of the theory of conflict management through negotiation developed by the Negotiation Centre at Harvard and which has been disseminated in France for over 35 years by the European Negotiation Centre. To have power in a negotiation, it is essential to before the need to identify and constantly improve the MESORE of a negotiated agreement. To have a better chance of success, you have to foresee and anticipate failure. That's the paradox.

See also

the European Negotiation Centre, quoted in Le Point.

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