Ferrovial lack of BD Strategy leads to Human Rights abuse accusations

 

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Just over a year ago I questioned whether BBVA had sufficiently analysed the geopolitical risk of investing in Turkey before buying a majority shareholding in the Turkish bank Garanti (http://www.shaunriordan.com/?p=209). As time has passed and Turkey’s geopolitical, economic and political problems have grown, my comments begin to look more prophetic. More recently I questioned the capacity for geopolitical risk analysis and management of the Spanish led consortium constructing the high-speed rail link between Riyadh and Jeddah (https://blog.aurorapartners.co.uk/2016/03/10/can-the-saudi-rail-project-emerge-from-the-diplomatic-void/). Not only did the consortium apparently fail to realise that the Saudi desert contained sand, but it also failed to develop the thick networks of influence and information among the Saudi Royal Family and among Saudi officials that would help protect the project. The latest Spanish company to suffer from its inability to analyse and manage geopolitical risk is Ferrovial. According to the Guardian newspaper: Ferrovial has been warned by the Stanford Law School that its directors and employees risk prosecution under international law for breaching human rights in Australia’s refugee detention camps on Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. Ferrovial acquired responsibility for the offshore detention camps in May when it bought 90% of Broadspectrum, the company managing the camps.

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Ferrovial’s response has been to say that it will not renew the contract, claim that it is a signatory to various human rights commitments and point out that many of the alleged abuses at the camp predated Broadspectrum’s involvement. It has also argued that it does not run the camps, but merely provides a considerable number of services. Apart from the feebleness (and irrelevance) of these responses suggesting that Ferrovial needs a new director of international communications, the responses also make clear that Ferrovial does not yet understand the potentially serious consequences for its reputation and its operations, across the world, and that it carried out insufficient geopolitical analysis before making the investment in Broadspectrum. Concerns about human rights abuses long pre-dated the Ferrovial investment. It would not have been difficult to discover them.

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An increasing number of corporations now pay lip service to the concept of corporate or business diplomacy, or corporate social responsibility. But few appear to understand the full implications for the reputation of the corporation or its future operations. This appears to be a particular problem for Spanish corporations, which stumble from one avoidable geopolitical crisis to another. They seem to believe it is sufficient to appoint retired ambassadors to the board, or buy overpriced geopolitical risk analysis from large consultancy companies. They are wrong, as Ferrovial is about to find out.

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Business Diplomacy for entering a new market, as Ferrovial was doing with it investment in Broadspectrum, envisages 4 phases:

  • 4D strategic vision: analyse the geopolitical, political, economic, social, legislative and technological risks to the company, not only in the narrow context of the new investment, but also how that investment will impact on the company’s other operations in other markets. In other words an analysis that is holistic across all the markets where the company is operating. The analysis should also be dynamic across time – the world changes!
  • Geopolitical stakeholder audit: identify the broad range of geopolitical stakeholders, governmental and non-governmental (including universities, NGOs, other companies, local government, media and civil society groups) who shape the geopolitical risk profile of the company and decide how risks impact on the company’s bottom line.
  • Develop networks of influence and information among the geopolitical stakeholders identified in the previous phase.
  • Building on these networks, generate multilevel and heterogenous coalitions of state and non/state actors to help promote and protect the commercial interests of the company.

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What would this have meant in terms of Ferrovial’s investment in Broadspectrum? Firstly they would have analysed the full range of risks which the investment implied not only to their operations in Australia, but also to the other operations across the world, including in Spain and, for example, the UK. This analysis would have picked up in particular the risk to their reputation, but also the risk of legal action against the company and its employees in a variety of jurisdictions. If, having carried out this analysis, Ferrovial had concluded that the investment was still worthwhile, they would have developed network of influence and information among the key geopolitical stakeholders. This would have included human rights groups and other NGOs, as well as academics and the media. Developing these networks in itself should have allowed them to identify better the problems in the camps and develop joint project with NGOs and others to rectify them. These networks would also now mean that Ferrovial would be in a better position to defend its actions to a more sympathetic audience. There are of course NGOs and other groups in Australia who would attack Ferrovial whatever their performance in the camps as part of an attack on the Australian government. However, if Ferrovial had developed networks properly, it would now be able to use them to construct coalitions to isolate these diehards. In other words, if Ferrovial had developed a proper Business Diplomacy strategy for it investment, it would have understood better the risks it was undertaking, would have been better placed to avoid the problems in the camps, and when the crisis did arrive would have been better placed to respond and ensure a more sympathetic hearing for its case.

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This is not the first time Ferrovial has encountered these kind of problems. Its investment in BAA encountered a broad range of political and other problems, which could have been avoided if a proper Business Diplomacy strategy had been adopted in the first place. In a volatile international business environment, in which universal rule sets are fragmenting and NGOs and other non-governmental actors are finding their power enhanced by new communication technologies, companies can no longer focus only on the commercial aspects of their business. Whether they like it or not, geopolitical and political factors will intrude. Either they develop effective business diplomacy strategies, or the non-commercial crises which hit hard at their bottom line will continue.

Digital Diplomacy and the Brexit Negotiations

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In my memo to the Prime Minister (http://www.shaunriordan.com/?p=290) I identified elements of a possible diplomatic strategy to secure an acceptable Brexit outcome for the UK. Here I want to explore to what extent digital diplomacy, or rather the tools of digital diplomacy, can be used to implement such a strategy. Much has been written about digital diplomacy, much of which gets no further than the use of social media to promote “a national brand”. I have argued elsewhere (http://uscpublicdiplomacy.org/blog/digital-diplomacy-20-beyond-social-media-obsession) that digital diplomacy must get beyond its obsession with social media. I also argued that digital diplomacy is not an end in itself, but rather a range of digital tools that should be integrated within broader diplomatic strategies to promote policy objectives. Without policy objectives and a broader diplomatic strategy, it may be digital but it is not diplomacy. If digital diplomacy is all it is cracked up to be, then surely it should be possible to devise ways of using it in one of the major diplomatic crises of the first two decades of the 21st century, for Europe at least: the fallout from the Brexit vote.

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Before we can think about the use of digital tools in a diplomatic strategy, we must establish U.K.’s policy objectives in a the Brexit negotiations. As I argued in the memo to the Prime Minister, these should be based on Europe’s geopolitical realities, and in particular the permanent division of the European union between those countries which have adopted the euro and those which have not. For the sake of this exercise I will suggest that Britain’s policy objective should be to reshape Europe into a federal Eurozone surrounded by a confederal periphery in eastern and north-western Europe, where Britain can continue to play a leadership role. Rather than Britain leaving the EU, the EU would restructure itself in such a way that Britain would not need to leave. Nothing so clear cut may be possible (not least because of divisions within the Eurozone itself), but the closer that Europe moves towards this kind of structure the better for Britain. At the negative end of the policy objectives, Britain must avoid any of the existing models for external relationships with the EU, none of which are appropriate to a nuclear power with a population of 65 million and an annual GDP of $2.849 trillion (17% of the EU GDP). Britain is neither Norway nor Switzerland. If the EU, for whatever reason, is able to avoid institutionalising its permanent two speed structure, then Britain’s minimal aim must be a tailor made special association agreement.

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In devising a strategy to secure it is maximalist or minimalist objectives, British diplomacy must be clear who are its potential friends, who are its implacable enemies, where are the neutrals that can be influenced and what are the interrelationship and tensions between them. Former British ambassador Charles Crawford has written an interesting blog on the layering of the Brexit negotiations (http://charlescrawford.biz/2016/07/01/brexit-4-negotiation-dynamics/). This outlined some of the conflicts and tensions underlying the negotiations. But Britain’s diplomatic strategy will need to go beyond this to identify the key stakeholders, governmental and non-governmental, and the key issues around which coalitions (friendly or hostile) could coalesce or be constructed. These coalitions are likely to be heterogenous and multilevel, crossing national and sectoral borders. Thus while the Spanish government may be hostile to Britain and its financial sector dreams (unrealistically) of attracting British banks to Madrid, it is tourist industry will be desperate to maintain access to the 12 million Brits who flood to Spanish beaches every year. At the European level, European Commission President Juncker will undoubtedly be hostile, but his prohibition on discussing Brexit before Britain activates Article 50 risks sidelining the Commission from the whole process. Meanwhile, the President of the Council van Rumpuy has appointed a Belgian diplomat to head a special Brexit task force of the European Council. Clearly Britain will be better off negotiating with the Council than with the Commission. Key allies will include the East Europeans outside the Euro and the Scandinavian Eurosceptics. But effective public diplomacy will identify and reach out to sympathetic publics and sectors in all EU member states.

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Once British diplomats have identified the key stakeholders and their interests, they can start devising the strategy to secure the policy objectives. At this stage they can start thinking about how digital diplomacy tools can be incorporated into the strategy, what content they should convey and who should operate them. The key caveat here: digital diplomacy should never be seen as “propaganda with bite”, using digital platforms to “sell messages”. As marketeers have found out, denizens of the digital world do not like being lectured at. They expect to be listened to. In the 21st century, one way communication is counter-productive and generates resentment. This has resource implications. You should not launch a social media campaign if you’re not able to engage with the replies.

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Like public diplomacy, digital diplomacy is often more effective if carried out by surrogates rather than diplomats themselves. The surrogates are more credible. Thus European business associations are more likely to be influenced by British business associations than by embassies. Think tanks, NGOs, universities and other civil society groups already have their own networks that can be called into play. In some cases there are foreign publics with whom the British government or diplomats would not want to talk, for example far right wing political parties. Well, UKIP is always asking for a role. The key is that in none of these exchanges should Britain be trying to sell messages, but rather launch conversations that move the political discussions in Britain’s direction. Britain deploys public and digital diplomacy techniques with foreign publics to make it easier for their governments to support British positions.

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Digital tools are not only about engaging more effectively with foreign governments and publics. Social media can be valuable sources of information about change in public opinion, especially when combined with data mining and other big data techniques. In the case of the Brexit negotiations, this would allow British diplomats to monitor public attitudes towards Britain, and British policies, in different countries, helping them to tailor their approach to each country. It can also help measure the effectiveness of Britain strategy in terms of social media reactions. This kind of data mining does have weaknesses: the data sample tend to be biased towards the young (who most use social media) and those sufficiently interested in politics to post or tweet about Brexit. But it does, unlike polling, give real-time indications of changes in attitudes.

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Diplomats could also enhance their analysis of European attitudes and policies towards Brexit through crowd-sourced analytical platforms. Such platforms allow analysts from across cyberspace to take part in forums, scenario building, or wargaming. They can significantly strengthen the analytical capacity and reach of governments, especially of smaller countries. In the case of Brexit it would be better if such crowd-sourced platforms were constructed and operated by “neutral” bodies, such as the British Council, think tanks or universities. This would allow them to bring in a broad range of analysts, governmental as well as non-governmental, from across Europe to debate the key analytical questions. Apart from deepening Britain’s analytical understanding, it could also provide invaluable corrections to misjudgements and Whitehall groupthink – a form of digital “red-teaming”.

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Social media will, of course, also form part of the strategy to influence debate among European partners. As suggested above, the key questions will be who (is it aimed at, will most effectively manage it), what (will it centre around), which (are the most effective platforms) and how (does it fit into the wider strategy – including synchronising with other parts of the Diplomatic campaign). This suggests that there may be a previous stage of strategic planning: identifying those non-governmental bodies in the UK, whether they be trade associations, companies, NGOs, universities, think tanks or civil society groups, who will be the most effective surrogates and then persuading them to take part. Simply putting out messages on the Prime Minister’s or the Foreign Office Twitter account won’t cut it. Social media such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn can be used for campaigns, promoting conversation and debates among foreign publics, or as networking tools, identifying and cultivating potential allies (Big Data and data mining can also throw up interesting contacts to be cultivated). Key issues on which Britain would want to encourage conversations in its natural allies in Eastern Europe, for example, would include the security threat of Russia, Ukraine, migration, the relationship between the non-euro countries and the Eurozone and the role and powers of the European commission. Some of these issues would have resonance within the Eurozone, where Britain would also want to encourage discussion on how to stabilise the Eurozone economy in the medium term and its economic and sovereignty implications. Clearly it would not be tactful, and could even be counter-productive, for the British government to initiate debate on these issues while trying to negotiate the terms of Brexit with Paris and Berlin. This reinforces the importance of using credible surrogates.

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There are a board range of other digital tools that can be used to promote debates on the key issues. It includes creating online platforms that can allow scenario building or simulation exercises with participation from across the EU. Again these are more credible if promoted by independent surrogates like think tanks or universities. An interesting exercise might be to launch an online scenario building exercise on what Europe will look like in 15 years, aiming to generate four or five possible Europes. Build into this exercise could be the key issues identified above.

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A more imaginative approach would be gamification, the use of computer games to explore different possible Europes and how they relate. Producing such games as a smartphone app would increase their reach – think of the impact of the new Pokémon app. In this case the aim is more manipulative, as the rules of the game condition the outcomes, and so can be used to push the view of Europe’s future favoured by Britain. The constraint here is credibility: to work effectively and be credible with users the extent to which it pushes the British view must be subtle, even concealed. This in fact raises an important issue about Brexit public and digital diplomacy. They will be more effective if they can be built around the problems and issues of our European partners rather than Britain. A computer game app, for example, which games the issues of security, migration, relations with Brussels or relations with the Eurozone as seen from Warsaw or Bratislava will be far more effective than one that worries about migrants at Calais.

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The Brexit negotiations offers digital diplomacy the chance to come of age. In as far as it operates to influence foreign opinion it must recall that its function is the same as public diplomacy: to promote a political and social environment in which specific policy objectives will flourish. It must form part of a broader diplomatic strategy to secure the policy objectives, and like that strategy must be dynamic and adaptive. Proponents must also be realistic about what we can achieved. Its outcomes are by its very nature uncertain. Digital diplomacy promotes conversation and debate rather than selling messages. Attempt to control its outcomes render it ineffective, and damage Britain’s reputation. But in a digital world digital diplomacy tools must form part of the Brexit negotiating strategy.

The Geopolitics of Turkey’s Coup

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The analysis of the motivation and consequences of the Turkish coup have underestimated the geopolitics.

Motivation

First it is important to understand Turkish geopolitical dilemmas and reactions. In recent months Turkey (together with Saudi Arabia) has emerged as the major loser in the Middle East. Turkey’s proteges are losing out in Syria. Russian support has reinforced the Assad regime. The nuclear deal with Tehran has enhanced the position of its rival Iran. The Kurds are benefiting from the chaos in both Iraq and Syria, and with US support will almost certainly emerge with their own state. Turkey’s flirtation with ISIS has backfired with large-scale terrorist attacks in Turkey itself. PKK terrorism is adding to the internal instability. The Turkish governments increasingly mistrusts the US, in large part because of the deal with Iran. Relations with the EU have been tense, partly because of the migration crisis and partly because of persistent criticism of Erdogan’s human rights record. The Brexit campaign in the UK exacerbated the tensions when then Prime Minister Cameron publicly proclaimed that Turkey would never join the EU.

Prior to the coup, there was evidence of Erdogan responding to Turkey’s geopolitical dilemmas with a radical change in the direction of Turkish foreign policy. Firstly, Erdogan initiated a rapprochement with Israel. He responded to the Brexit vote with relish, speculating on a referendum to withdraw the Turkish application to join the EU. He then appeared to launch a rapprochement with Russia by apologising for the death of the Russian pilot shot down over Turkish airspace (Russia Today reported that Putin and Erdogan would soon meet). Put together these steps suggested an Erdogan who was abandoning the EU, and possibly the US, to realign Turkey with the more congenial Russians.

This realignment would be a considerable victory for Russia. But it would also threaten many foreign policy objectives held dear by elements within the Turkish Armed Forces: a close relationship with the US, eventual membership of the EU, an active role in NATO, opposition to the Assad regime and thwarting Russian ambitions in the Black Sea and Mediterranean. While it may be true that the coup plotters were concerned at Erdogan’s increasing authoritarianism, were Gulenists or concerned about a reported reshuffle of military commands on 16 July, it is equally likely that they were motivated by Erdogan’s new move foreign policies and their implications, in particular for Turkey’s membership of NATO.

Consequences

The immediate consequence of the coup’s failure will be to reinforce Erdogan’s position, and the policy directions he was already following. He is already taking advantage of the coup to purge the armed forces, especially the Air Force, and the Judiciary. But the geopolitical consequences are also becoming clear. Erdogan has already blamed the coup on Gulen and demanded his extradition from the US. The US will refuse, and is already implying criticism of Erdogan’s internal crackdown. Turkey has stopped US operations against ISIS from the Incirclik airbase and arrested the base’s Turkish commander, who clearly enjoyed close relations with his US counterparts (apart from US attacks on ISIS, the base also stores US tactical nuclear weapons). Tensions will also grow with the EU as EU leaders feel obliged to criticise Turkey’s domestic crackdown, all the more so if Turkey reintroduces the death penalty. The crackdown itself could lead to a new wave of Turkish migrants seeking refuge from Erdogan in the EU. Many may be wanted by the Turkish authorities. The Greek government already has to decide whether to return eight Turkish military who have sought refuge there. Meanwhile, Erdogan will continue to hold the migration blackmail over the EU. The EU has already failed to deliver on visa free access for Turkish citizens and it is even less likely to do so now. At any moment, Erdogan can unleash new waves of Middle Eastern migrants, destabilising the Balkans.

With growing tensions with the EU and US, Erdogan has every reason for continuing and even deepening the rapprochement with Russia. He needs a reliable ally to confront instability both abroad and at home. He knows that Moscow will not criticise his human rights record. In the medium term this could lead to a radical realignment of the Middle East, with Moscow, as the price of its friendship, brokering further rapprochement between Turkey and Iran and the Assad regime. This would effectively lock the Americans out of the region and would question Turkey’s continued membership of NATO. It would also greatly strengthen Russia’s position in its near abroad on Europe’s eastern frontier.

The geopolitical consequences of the coup could impact severely on Turkey’s economic performance. Turkey is highly dependent on short-term foreign portfolio investment to support its current account deficit and property and housing markets. Such financing is highly volatile. Internal repression and tensions with the US and EU could lead to significant capital outflows undermining an already suffering economy. Economic instability would feed into increasing political instability. Although this might undermine the radical realignment of the Middle East suggested above, the political and economic collapse of Turkey should be of no consolation to the US or the EU, both because of its impact on the further destabilisation of the region, and in reigniting Europe’s migration crisis.

Memo to the Prime Minister

Prime Minister

Congratulations on your election. You have now constructed your government. You may be forgiven for thinking that your predecessor and the British people have dealt you something of a weak hand on the key issue of your premiership, Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. However, you should be of good heart and approach the negotiations constructively and imaginatively. Do not be distracted by offers of free trade agreement from around the world. Such agreements are important, but your priority must be to shape Britain’s future relationship with Europe. Britain cannot divorce itself from Europe.

Europe is not in a good way. That is both a risk and an opportunity for Britain. The unified European Union envisaged by the Lisbon Treaty is a fiction. In fact there are three very different parts of the European Union: a North-western group of Eurosceptic countries, of which Britain is one, outside the Eurozone; an eastern group of former Warsaw Pact countries, also outside the Eurozone; and the Eurozone itself. This fragmentation of the EU puts pressure on its structures and institutions, which are designed for an ever more integrated single union. Officially it is thought that this does not matter as all EU members are obliged to adopt the Euro as they meet the economic and monetary criteria, apart from Denmark and Britain, who will ultimately see the error of their ways. Thus Europe will be reunified within the Eurozone. However, it is now clear that this will not happen, at least in the foreseeable future, and that Europe will continue to be divided into the Eurozone and those that cannot, or will not, adopt the Euro.

There are instability and tensions within the Eurozone itself, where the Euro crisis has been postponed rather than resolved. Preserving the Euro will require full banking, economic and fiscal union. Germany has made clear that it can accept this only if accompanied by political union. It seems unlikely that France will ever accept political union. It is certainly inconceivable in the current political climate. The Eurozone will continue to integrate at the margins, with the ECB gaining evermore power in the banking sector, and will be significantly more integrated than the rest of the Union. But with out further radical integration, it will continue to stumble from crisis to crisis.

The divide between the Eurozone and non-euro members renders the EU’s constitutional and institutional structures unstable and unsustainable (including the Treaty of Lisbon). The European Commission’s role in the Eurozone is much diminished, where the key institutions are the ECB and the Eurogroup. The Commission’s problems are compounded by its poor relations with the non-euro countries. Commission President Juncker clings onto the Lisbon Treaty as a lifeline while the Commission’s authority and purpose collapses around him. More seriously, there is no mechanism for mediating conflict between the Eurozone and the non-euro members of the EU. Last year the were currency wars within the EU between the ECB and the central banks of Sweden and Denmark, who still have to maintain their key interest rates negative to be able to trade with the Eurozone. Again this would not matter if the two speed Europe were a temporary phenomena. It is not, and the current arrangements are unsustainable.

Europe’s problems are compounded by the volatile international environment. The migration crisis has eased, in part because of the deal brokered by Merkel with Turkey. This may not last. Post-coup an ever more authoritarian Erdogan seems to be moving away from Europe. Harsh repression and the possible reintroduction of the death penalty will make it difficult to keep EU-Turkish relations on an even keel. Turkish refugees from Erdogan’s clamp down may join the other migrants seeking to enter Europe. Meanwhile signs of a rapprochement between Erdogan and Putin may call into question Turkey’s position in NATO. Russia remains a threat in Europe’s eastern frontier. The Ukraine remains unresolved, and there are many more pressure points which Putin can use. Europe remains without a credible common foreign policy, and talk of an enhanced defence policy is meaningless without the resources to implement it. Without the UK, France remains the only significant military power in Europe. But, between deployments in Africa and domestic counterterrorist duties, French forces are overcommitted. Brexit leave Europe security even more dependent on NATO and the US.

Britain should not rejoice over Europe’s problems. Schadenfreude is misplaced. As Churchill said before WWI, ‘”Europe is where the weather comes from”. But your government must decide what kind of Europe is in Britain’s interests, and how Britain should relate to it. This should be based on Europe’s reality, not the caricatures used by both sides in the Brexit debate. A failed, chaotic Europe is not in Britain’s interest, but neither is a successful federal superstate encompassing all members of the EU. Fortunately neither is likely. Britain’s aim should be a stable quasi federal Eurozone surrounded by a group of non-euro countries in a looser more confederal type relationship. Europe’s formal institutions and structures need to reflect this as a permanent state of affairs. This is achievable and would allow Britain to continue to play the kind of leading role in Europe that would have been familiar to Castlereagh.

This analysis has implications for the way your government approaches the Brexit negotiations. You should avoid getting bogged down in the details of the Article 50 negotiations and instead take a broad approach based on Europe’s geopolitical and economic realities. Key elements of this strategy include:

Do not be too quick to activate Article 50. Time is on your side. The tensions and conflicts between the Euro and non-euro members (and indeed within the Eurozone itself) will grow over time. Referenda in Hungary and Italy and elections in the Netherlands, Germany and France will impact the geopolitical environment. Irritation with Britain will dissipate over time, as other crisis make clear the need for a sensible agreement.

Do not focus on negotiations with the Commission. They are your enemy. Their power and influence is diminishing. They take Brexit as a personal affront. Once you activate Article 50 you have to negotiate with them (another reason to defer activating it). Focus instead on the broader conversations with other member states. They will frame the negotiating strategy of the Commission.

Merkel is a potential ally. She does not want Britain to leave the EU. She fears that Britain’s departure will exacerbate tensions between Paris and Berlin. She is also uncomfortable with Germany’s role as the leader in Europe. She will be happy to slow things down in the hope of a fix. You may have to disappoint her in the end, meanwhile use her patience and caution to your advantage (but do not taken her for granted).

Focus on the non-Euro members of the EU, especially in Eastern Europe. Their concerns focus on security against Russia, migration, relations with the Eurozone and an over mighty Commission (sound familiar?). Talk about their concerns and where possible offer British support. In particular offer military support.Britain is uniquely well-placed in the EU to do so. As successive British prime ministers have recognised, Britain’s defensive line does not lie in the British channel.

In conversations with other countries focus on free trade and market friendly policies. Many countries value Britain’s contributions in these areas, and fear what will happen when Britain leaves. Be generous over EU citizens working in the Britain. The aim is that Britain escape the political control of Brussels. This must take priority. A Norwegian type solution is not acceptable.

Above all do not talk about Britain’s problems. No one is interested. Prior to activating Article 50, talk about Europe’s problems. Do not be shy about portraying the reality of Europe’s two-speed structure and its implications, or the internal and external challenges that Europe faces. But do so constructively in a way that makes clear that Britain wants to be part of the solution.

If pursued with energy and diplomatic skill, this strategy offers the opportunity of converting the departure of an isolated Britain from Europe into the restructuring of the EU itself into a geopolitical arrangement with which we, and others, can feel more comfortable.