Steve Bullock @GuitarMoog Immigrant, Musician, Sound Engineer, SNP, ex-negotiator for UK in EU. Brother of @JuliaKayPotts. Supporter of @FinalSayForAll. Feb. 23, 2018 3 min read

Seven years ago, the UKGov set out its position on the EU budget for 2014-2020 1/

The PM, Cameron, set the objective of, for the first time, reducing the EU budget in real terms, and keeping it below €1,000bn 2/

Rightly or wrongly, he said that it was unreasonable that when governments were expecting people to accept lower spending by them, that the EU should increase its projected spending 3/

I was worried that this would mean a decrease in the EU development spending that I worked on, and that I knew had significant impact on poverty in the world's poorest countries. 4/

Many also thought that if the reduction could be achieved, it would be at the cost of the UK rebate being at least reduced. 5/

And many in Brussels just didn't think it could be done. Net recipients wouldn't wear it. It wasn't politically helpful for some of the net contributors. 6/

But UKGov set out to deploy diplomacy in Member States, gathering support carefully and gradually. The PM visited many of them. 7/

Trade-offs were made, which are evident in the results, such as a commitment to examine CAP reform, but not a hard promise to reform it in this 7 year period. 8/

The result, after a marathon 36 hours of negotiations in Brussels was that due to the support he had garnered, the result of a good negotiating strategy, Cameron got his deal. He called it "A deal the UK can be proud of."  https://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/feb/08/eu-leaders-budget-david-cameron 

What's more, he did it while also securing an increase in the EU aid budget, despite, as he once said, the difficulty with the aid budget being that the people who receive it are not in the room to defend it. 10/

(As it happens, I don't think the reduction was a good thing in itself. The EU (and the UK) needed more investment, not less, but that is not the point of this thread) 11/

The point of the thread is twofold. Firstly, the tired cliche of the evidence-averse that UK had no influence in Brussels, and was constantly bullied by EU27 is false. 12/

When UKGov really wanted something, and ministers were prepared to put the negotiating work in and deploy diplomacy properly, the UK very rarely lost. 13/

The second point is that they didn't do this by thumping the table, shouting unreasonable demands, and ignoring their negotiating partners. 14/

Quite the opposite. UKGov was successful by careful strategic planning, calibrating its policy to what is possible, and by listening very closely to partners concerns. 15/

This last point, of listening to the concerns of partners and attempting to find solutions to assuage their fears, is absolutely key. 16/

That's not to say toughness wasn't involved. Everyone cannot always walk away happy, and in this case Hollande in particular had a rough time. 17/

But this toughness was only deployed strategically, not as an emotional response. 18/

So consider this story in comparison to UKGov's Brexit negotiations 19/

No clear objectives or policy. Soundbites instead of diplomacy. Bravado instead of preparation. ideology instead of strategy, and, worst of all, shouting instead of listening. 20/

I'm no fan of Cameron's politics (quite the opposite!) and his misjudgement in betting the prosperity of a country on a referendum held for internal party reasons will be judged by history as catastrophic. 21/

But had Brexit negotiations been conducted in a similar fashion to the last EU budget negotiations, the future for the UK would not be looking quite as bleak as it is. 22/22


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