Brexit – All you have to do is…

This started as a story about Britain’s attempts to leave the European Union. The writing process gave me an opportunity to reflect on a transition work group I’m participating in. The irony is that the story was always intended to illuminate the value of checking assumptions and regrouping as needed. The story is a quick read, with a little food for thought. Comments and sharing are always welcome.

In this post:

Story: Brexit – All’s what you have to do is…

On 23 June 2016, a referendum was held to decide Britain’s continued membership in the European Union (EU). The majority of those who voted chose to leave. This choice is now known as “Brexit.” Since that time, there has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth. And yet, there appears to be no clear path to the end of this process.

Brexit has had so many twists and turns that it is hard to keep track of the issues at its heart. The current barrier to completing the exit from the EU seems to be centered around the border between Northern Ireland (part of Britain) and the Republic of Ireland (an independent member of the EU). Given the long history of violence in Northern Ireland, thoughtful consideration of this potential stumbling block makes sense. As negotiations drag on, the question: what important, but (now) less urgent issues prompted the Brexit vote?

The rhetoric surrounding the Brexit vote focused on immigration, trade, autonomy, and equity. Some people had well thought out reasons for their vote. Others found their vote had implications they had not considered. Still others cast protest votes without thinking the referendum would actually pass. Within days of the referendum there was talk of a second vote. Given the narrow margin of the vote (52% in favor to 48% against), it’s not surprising that the British Parliament remains deeply divided on how to proceed with the separation from the EU. It may be time to revisit the issues that prompted the Brexit vote.

Lessons learned:

On 29 March, 2017 the British Prime Minister notified the EU of Britain’s intent to leave the European Union. That started a two year countdown to complete the process. It was expected that leaving the EU would be complex, involving many points of negotiation and decision. It is these many decision points that seem to have led to the process nearly grinding to a halt.

Given the seemingly insurmountable political and technical challenges associated with leaving the EU, it may be easier to address some of the issues that prompted the original vote and identify those that are still relevant. Leaving the EU may not be as important as it was originally thought. It’s also possible that leaving the EU may not address the concerns that prompted the original vote.

As I wrote this I found myself reflecting on a transition workgroup I’m a part of. Like the Brexit negotiations, we appear to be at an impasse. And like the Brexit negotiations, it’s important that we get things right. I can’t help but wonder What I’m missing in the process and how the things that were once seen as critical success factors might not be quite as important as originally thought. It is clearly time to revisit these questions and reevaluate what is important to all parties to the negotiations.

  • Applying the lessons

On the assumption that nobody associated with the Brexit negotiations is going to reach out for my advice, I’ll stay closer to home. Here are some thoughts I will be carrying with me the next time the work group I’m a part of meets:

  • Revisit the thinking behind the perceived need for change.
  • Revisit the initial framework for addressing the situation.
  • Reflect on my personal attachment to the initial solution framework.
  • Gain an understanding of how/why the original consensus was lost.
  • Determine a set of minimum (non-negotiable) outcome criteria.
  • Accept that we may differ in our approach to logically equivalent outcomes.
  • Reframe the conversation toward a solution that will be sustainable into the future.


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For more information:

Dan Lococo, PhD
, Barrier Knocker Downer
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Copyright 2019, Dan Lococo, All rights reserved

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