David Cameron’s EU veto and when to walk away from negotiations

Posted: Wednesday, 14 December 2011 @ 18:13

With all the criticism and praise of David Cameron using his veto at the EU last week, as an expert in resolving commercial disputes, I know that sometimes walking away is the right thing to do.

In negotiations and mediations, one of the ‘killer’ tactics available is the threat of walking away. The very threat of doing this puts the other side on the spot: how keen are they really to resolve the issue, to reach a win-win settlement? It sends the message that they’ve gone beyond your bottom line and, if they really want to do a deal, they’ll have to come up with something better.

It’s also a ‘killer’ tactic as it might very well lead to the failure of negotiations, and that can be costly. It should therefore only be used if you’re certain of the strength of your own case and the weakness of your opponent’s, know clearly what outcome you want, and what you’re not prepared to accept under any circumstances. You also need to be willing to accept the consequences of failure, and that will usually mean asking the court to decide the issue.

If you know you’ve got a strong case and that the other side are not taking it seriously, this can be a good tactic to use. As in most negotiation tactics, the threat is often better than actually carrying it out, but you must be willing to act on your threat if it’s to be credible.

It’s certainly not a tactic to be used lightly and, as it depends on a real knowledge of your case’s strengths and weaknesses, you’ll need a dispute management lawyer to analyse your case and advise you on these.

As for the EU veto, I will be watching the consequences with interest. With all the threats of isolation being bandied about, I wonder if serious thought has gone into how much benefit the EU actually gets from Britain. I suspect that our case is actually stronger that the doom and gloom merchants suggest, and I note that Angela Merkel has alluded to this in her speech today.

What do you think? Have you used this tactic? Has it worked or did you later regret it?

Gary Cousins
Business Dispute Resolution Solicitor

Blog by Gary Cousins
Gary has been providing legal advice to shareholders, directors and business owners for over 25 years. Specialising in dispute resolution Gary is based in Birmingham with clients throughout the UK and overseas. View profile
Call Gary on +44 (0)121 778 3212 or by email
This blog is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor is it intended to be a complete and authoritative statement of the law, and what we say might be out of date by the time you read it. You should always seek legal advice to confirm whether or how any information in this article applies to your particular situation. We offer a free telephone consultation to discuss your particular circumstances.

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