Respectful Political Negotiation

Respectful political negotiation, without bullying or condescension, is part of engaging meaningfully to agree on important issues.

A successful negotiation is one in which the parties believe that their views have been listened to and considered in reaching a decision.  Failure to do this leads to resentment and obstructiveness.  If one party tries to bully the others, or treat them with condescension, it may feel that it is winning the argument – but the outcome will not be fully accepted by the others and will probably be sub-optimum for all concerned.  Exchanging blows, bullying and confrontation are three of the ways in which politicians fail to negotiate respectfully – as in the following examples.

Donald Trump’s trade war with China is popular with his supporters; he and they feel good about his adversarial approach of imposing tariffs rather than negotiating compromises.  It is a prime example of a coercive foreign policy (  It is partly counter-productive, however: China has retaliated against each of his tariff increases and both countries’ economies are being damaged.  An Economist article, Weapons of mass disruption, warns of the long-term impact of his increasing use of tariffs to exert pressure:

“This pumped-up vision of a 21st-century superpower may be seductive for some. But it could spark a crisis, and it is eroding America’s most valuable asset—its legitimacy.”

Having purged the moderate wing of his party in a Brexit showdown, Boris Johnson overcame parliamentary opposition by winning an election on a promise to ‘get Brexit done’ as if he were ‘leading the charge of the Light Brigade’.  Europe’s negotiator Michel Barnier’s withering verdict on Britain’s Brexit team described him as “full of bluster and bluff”.  Boris Johnson’s minimal Brexit trade deal then paved the way for further confrontations with the EU.

As the Guardian remarked, Brexit is a machine to generate perpetual grievance: there is now no trust between Britain and the EU.  In one spectacular example, Sky News reported that Post-Brexit fishing rights row rumbles on as France threatens to cut off electricity supply to Jersey and then France 24 reported that UK sends Navy ships to Jersey as post-Brexit fishing dispute deepens.



This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/6841.htm.