As European Union negotiators can’t see any reason to support Brexit, they will continue to keep the European Union’s best interests in mind — which is to say, they will try to stop, slow, obfuscate, or otherwise derail the Brexit process by almost any means possible.
And why shouldn’t they feel that way? The EU is a net beneficiary of £8.6 billion annually courtesy of the UK, so there’s little incentive to stop a contribution that is larger than that of all other EU-member countries except Germany.
If there are any Brexit benefits to the European Union, nobody has bothered to tell EU negotiators or EU media channels.
So how would anyone know if there will be Brexit benefits for the EU when the UK government hasn’t mentioned them once? And yet there are likely many Brexit benefits — for both sides — that just aren’t being discussed.
How to Sell a Product or Idea
When you’re trying to sell apples to a potential customer, giving them a nonstop spiel about how much *you* like apples won’t help you sell many apples!
But if you hand your potential customer a hot glass of mulled apple cider and walk them past appealing displays of fresh apples, followed by a pleasant tour through the on-site bakery bursting with the aroma of piping hot apple pies and offer them a tantalizing sample at the exact moment their interest in apples is high, you’ll sell more apples.
If you’re selling cars, you don’t spend your time telling the customer about the specifications of the car and how it can transport you here and there with ease. Any ol’ car can do that.
Instead, you answer their questions about the car, you offer a test drive so they can experience how much better it drives, sounds, and looks than their present car, all of which work together to help them fall in love with the car you’re selling.
If you’re a really smart salesperson, you’ll slap a dealer plate on the new car and let your customers take it home for the weekend so they can show it off to their comrades who will help convince them the new car is much better than their old jalopy.
And have you ever noticed that beer commercials don’t show you endless cans of beer and a quick snapshot of the brewery?
Breweries are highly experienced marketers and they want to show you good-looking people having a great time socializing with their friends and family in a picturesque setting or while engaged in enjoyable activities.
Look at that product placement! There’s the can of beer right beside those sizzling steaks on the barbecue while those great people in the background are enjoying their evening.
Considering a run to the beer store? Well yes you should — because you’re a good person, you work hard, you love spending quality time with your friends and family and you deserve a summer’s evening just like the people on that commercial. That’s the message.
Marketing types call this Feature/Benefit selling, ‘Selling the sizzle, not the steak’ which isn’t about what the product or service actually is, it’s about what it can do for you and how it can make you look or feel happier and better.
What Isn’t Theresa May Doing?
She isn’t selling the benefits of Brexit to the EU.
We know there are many benefits for Britons but even that has been under-sold.
In the early days following the Leave referendum it might’ve looked to Remainers as though Brexit could still go either way, so Theresa May was probably wise to move cautiously at first. But that time has passed. Almost every person and business in Britain wants to get beyond the present period of uncertainty and get on with creating a fresh start for the UK outside the European Union.
The right time to begin crafting a trade agreement that works even better than the present trading system has arrived. And now that we’re at this point in time, under-selling the benefits of Brexit to UK and EU citizens is not the way forward.
What Is The Way Forward?
In a word, Vision.
Theresa May needs to put on her ‘Steve Jobs hat’ and figure out what the best possible Brexit vision looks like from both the UK and EU perspectives.
Starting with a completely clean sheet; What would that look like in its entirety? What would it look like five years on?
If she doesn’t offer an inspiring vision that a majority of people on both sides of the English Channel can ‘buy-in’ to her government will be paddling upstream all day, every day, for as long as she remains Prime Minister. (And that’s definitely a no-fun lifestyle, even for a British PM)
Once the vision has been considered by Theresa May, only then should it be communicated to her Cabinet, while the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) should oversee all other UK ministries and departments as they compile reports that describe what their best-case scenario would look like in practical terms.
Then it’s simply a matter of working to those ideals as much as is practicable to create a Vision Statement that can be released to the public, sans the excruciating detail required in government policy papers.
“This is the Vision we’re working toward…” (Giving UK and EU citizens a view of what a better Brexit looks like)
‘How do you like those apples?’ someone cheekily asked.
The Three Principles Common to all Organizations
- Vision (or Mission)
Without equal weight given to each of those three factors any organization or project will ultimately fail.
It can’t be emphasized enough; Endless discussion about the best Brexit from the UK standpoint are irrelevant to European Union citizens and businesses. Brexit must work for the EU too, or it will be increasingly uncomfortable and expensive for the UK as time rolls forward.
Theresa May needs to find what things will work better for the EU in a post-Brexit world and promote those items on every visit to the EU. If there aren’t any Brexit positives for the EU, she better create some as they negotiate forward to a final trade and financial services agreement.
Without an overarching vision even the best management and leadership will underperform. Perhaps severely.
But as soon as May gives the order to each of her 25 Ministerial Departments and 20 non-Ministerial Departments to submit their best-case scenario (their best hopes and aspirations showing what their jurisdiction could look like five years on from Brexit) and from that she will be able to write a one page vision for each of the 45 departments.
From there she will need to direct the Department for Exiting the European Union to create a list of items that could be seen as positives by EU governments, EU businesses and EU citizens. Those are the apples she needs to sell on every visit to the European Union. And then sell the ‘sizzle’ Theresa, not the steak.
Theresa May must ‘create’ and ‘sell’ (Vision + Leadership + Management + Marketing) a Brexit that will benefit both the UK and the EU and begin to disseminate that better vision throughout both blocs.
Throwing £40 billion at the EU now and (potentially) another £40 billion to obtain a trade and financial services agreement isn’t visionary — it’s ‘buying an agreement’ with taxpayer’s money — which is fine if that’s the only option. But it isn’t the only option.
Getting citizens, businesses, and governments on both sides of the English Channel to buy-in to a grand vision that works even better than the present paradigm without it costing another £40 billion, must be Theresa May’s Number One Priority before the October 2018 Brexit deal-making deadline arrives.
[P.S. to Michel Barnier, chief negotiator for the European Union] Jeez, Michel, for £40 billion shouldn’t the UK have received a bespoke customs deal, a bespoke trade deal, a bespoke financial services agreement *and* a chocolate mint on every UK pillow?
Written by John Brian Shannon