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In his great book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, Covey split the Habits into three areas. The first and third were very personal and I shan’t repeat them here, but Habits 4, 5 and 6 covered the way we work with others once we have (in Habits 1-3) mastered ourselves.

The Habits were:

Habit 4 – Think Win-Win.

Habit 5 – Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood.

Habit 6 – Synergise.

For this article, I’ll focus on 4 and 5.

In 2016, the British electorate shocked the establishment and, much to their shock and chagrin, decided to leave the European Union. What happened next is still causing problems three and a half years later and is the direct result of a failure to execute on those Habits.

First of all, and bear in mind this is my take on things and you can juggle around your own interpretations, the two sides went into Win-Lose and Lose-Win. The EU decided (and have been caught saying out loud) that Britain must be punished for deciding to leave. The UK, in the form of a Remain-biased Cabinet, decided they should bend over backwards to avoid further offending their future pension pots neighbours. The result was an agreement, hated by most, that meant the UK ‘pretended’ it had left, while subserviently making itself subject to all EU rules without having any say in how they were formed.

Secondly, then PM Teresa May failed to seek to understand that as all parties were responsible and accountable to the electorate that had decided to leave, she should have started a cross-party consultation in order to achieve that end. In failing to do that she alienated practically everyone.

At the same time, perhaps the EU could have considered this as an opportunistic challenge, rather than as a punitive exercise, and started the negotiations with that approach.

In other words – if both sides had approached the exercise with an attitude of ‘what can we do about this that brings the best of everything to both partners’ then perhaps we’d all be less combative about the whole thing. But that required Statesmanship of the type not clearly seen since Churchill, and that’s no longer evident, anywhere.

But here’s an additional thought. In Think Win-Win, Covey – an expert with no political objective – opined that one option, one that takes more courage even than Win-Win, is

Win-Win or No Deal.

In other words, if we can’t agree, let’s agree to disagree, agreeably. And then have No Deal, after which, as we both identify what does and doesn’t work for both of us, we can slowly come back to the table with a still friendly, open-minded, constructive attitude borne of the desire to be better, again. No Deal isn’t a weapon to be used as a threat. It is a position that recognises there are challenges, and that if both sides can’t meet that challenge in a way that suits both, to not do the deal.

If the EU/UK had done that, perhaps we would have gone, sooner, to WTO rules, be well on the way to a new, better, respectful and synergistic trade deal that is still as far away from being agreed as it was in June 2016

President Clinton used Covey for counsel, as did many other heads of state. Many leaders have read the Seven Habits and yet still fail to consider just how useful it is in dealing with ‘life’.

I think this stuff ought to be taught in MP/MEP School……..

It’s good to be back.