The 23 June decision taken by the British public was unexpected and significant. It sets the stage for a less-than-friendly divorce from the EU and an uneasy relationship between the countries that are part of the United Kingdom. This move exemplifies the importance of partnerships regardless of how big or small.
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Partnerships can be a bit complicated. You are placing yourself in danger of failure if your foundations are weak. So what lessons can we draw from recent events and how can we avoid our own Brexit crisis in the partnership?
8 Lessons Learned from Brexit
1. Stay focused on the end objective
The founding fathers, Monnet and Schumann, believed in an unification of Europe and a united Europe, their vision was a Europe where each country would not be able to join the arms of another. The memory of the carnage of war was raw and powerful enough to inspire six European nations to come together to create the European Coal and Steel Community which evolved into the European Economic Community.
Forty years later, under Jacques Delors, the 12 European member nations evolved into the Single Market and added the free movement of capital, services, goods and workers to the Vision. It would eventually evolve into a shared-services arrangement unlike any other, and would eventually expand to 28 countries.
This is a fantastic Vision in principle, however, it’s not easy to put into practical terms. The four freedoms are best in an environment in where sovereignty, language, and identity aren’t as important as the idea of one-tier Europe free of conflict.
A vision personifies the ultimate goal , and it will take time to reach. The vision’s collaborators will come up with a series strategic plans with intermediate goals. Every plan must be focused on the vision of the company’s founders. The founders’ goals begin to diverge from the ever-changing expectations. Strategies require you to give up some control. This must be earned by trust, not blind faith, but trust established and reinforced over and over again. A lack of communication, conflict and bad publicity can easily cause harm to the entire process.
For certain people, the EU was in the news and, aside from the usual negative coverage in newspapers (to boost sales), Europe wasn’t perceived as doing a lot except leaving the floodgates open for foreigners to arrive and to take on their positions. Prior to the 23 June referendum supporters of the Brexit vote were able to capitalise on the confusion of the EU is doing by promoting fear of not being in control of the interests of the nation.
Partners bring into the Vision their own goals and ideas. A business partnership might have an Vision based on the pooled resources of two or more businesses which are trying to expand their market share. A vision for a community partnership could be one that helps make an impact on the lives of individuals and their communities. Every partner brings their own expectations into the discussion in each instance. What is their method of achieving the vision?
2 Agendas can change
Every partner comes to the table with an agenda. Certain items are public, while others remain secret. If the situation changes, agendas can also be changed. These include the management, financial and social. The UK has a reputation of being open about its goals even when they are it is at odds with other European powers. Margaret Thatcher fought for a better financial arrangement in 1984. John Major, in the 1990s, was successful in excluding the UK from the social Chapter under the Maastricht Treaty. This is a clear example of the relationship between the UK and our European partners and explain the comments around the less than happy marriage and expected rocky divorce.
Agendas underpin need. Each country is an identified perceived need to be in the Union. France was looking to profit from the post-war West Germany. Britain would like to stop the decline in the economy.
If you are looking to establish long-term trust in partnerships partners, every partner has to be clear about their goals. Unfortunately, this is not often the case. Partners are able to hide the actual reasons for why they’re interested in the partnership. Without due diligence, partners could find themselves in the wrong place an adversarial circumstance or be in financial strife because they were not aware of the intention of a partner to make use of the partnership for personal gain.
3 Form partnerships based on solid foundations
As in the story about the foolish builders who constructed their homes on foundations of sand, partnerships that are founded with weak foundations are more likely to fail when confronted with challenges. The European Economic Community was built on the principles and goals of a generation who were heavily involved in major wars. In the early 35+ years, the members could only gaze at the Berlin Wall to be reminded of a divided Europe. October 1989 marked a significant event in the history of Europe and the beginning of the healing process and setting the foundation for a larger, more integrated European Union.
The foundations of a good partnership can be measured by trust, dedication values, ethics, and culture.
Without trust the EU wouldn’t have gotten to the point it has reached over the last 60 years. It would have remained at 6 to 28 countries without trust. While trust was high in the European machines for decision-making and administrative machines, it did not necessarily spread to the masses.
It’s an intriguing idea to commit. Each country brought its individual goals to the table that allowed the countries to discuss their levels of commitment. The commitment was tested at every milestone that led to the expansion of the EU. These milestones were marked by different Treaties that were signed by the member states. The UK decided to leave the Social Chapter in the Maastricht Treaty in 1991. All countries that joined the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1990 must also join the mechanism and accept the Euro as part of an economic-monetary union. This is also a requirement of the Maastricht Treaty. The establishment of the European Single Market (in 1993) was a significant step towards achieving this commitment. The introduction of the European Single Market in 1993 was a major move forward in facilitating the free movement of capital of people, goods and services. This was further enhanced by the removal of physical barriers, which included the inclusion of the Schengen Area into the competences of the EU under the 1997 Amsterdam Treaty, as well as the elimination of border control between several member states. As European integration grows the member states are now obliged to take their commitment a step further, others would call it, a step further away from their sovereignty.
Partnerships are similar to partnerships in the sense that they demand commitment. Partner agree to follow the same agenda. As the time passes the partners might be asked to sign additional commitments that follow an agreed upon direction. Some partners withdraw when expectations are excessive. At other times internal discords, internal changes of management or changes of direction, can affect the commitment to partnerships. Despite the constant change in member governments and internal distractions (eg the unification of German), the EU has expanded and was able to survive. But, the British referendum decision to leave the EU is the first real-world test of a shift in direction.
The EU has a Values Statement which states that “the Union is founded on the ideals of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons who are minorities.” These values are shared by the Member States of an EU society that promotes pluralism and tolerance, equality as well as justice and solidarity as well as equality between women and men.
The most fundamentalprinciplesof British values are democratic rule of law and individual liberty. They also promote mutual respect and tolerance for people with different beliefs and beliefs, as well as involvement in the life of the community.
While these values seem like they are however, the EU values statement is stronger on social issues as opposed to the UK values. This difference has been demonstrated a number of times, and is now the sticking point with respect to the free movement of people. The UK wishes to restrict the flow of of people into the UK. The UK Principles were always slightly different from EU principles.
These values reflect the different philosophical perspectives. The UK is an island, and is protected by a natural barrier that prevents people from freely moving about. It also symbolizes British sovereignty. The British people are able to declare enough is enough. Although the continent of Europe doesn’t have natural borders, the histories of its inhabitants are different.
In the case of partnerships, different philosophies / belief systems should be taken into consideration. A company that is based on social justice is not able to work effectively with an investment bank. Over the last 30 years, a lot of UK manufacturing companies with long-standing paternalistic roots have shut down getting bought and then divested or shut down by investment bankers who are interested in the financial value of the land.
Because it brings together so many cultures, the success of the EU is amazing. Cultural diversity is part of the tapestry of the European Union, enriched by the variety of written and spoken languages. If you look at the culture of the way in which the EU is run, and it is easy to see the reason why people get in confusion. The EU decision-making process is more complex than that of the United Kingdom. If there is a difference, people don’t need to be aware until it affects them. It was therefore easy for Brexiteers to confuse the public.
One instance of the delicate nature of EU culture is the Mad cow disease crisis. On the day that the whole incident started to take place, I was there in Brussels. There were meetings to discuss the crisis in Brussels and it appeared that the meetings were moved from one place to the next every two hours. I recall seeing cavalcades of people driving from one spot to the next across Brussels on a few occasions in the course of the daytime. Absolutely insane.
Like all nations, every organization has its own unique culture. An organisation that has a culture of risk fear is different from one that has a culture of innovation. Even sole traders could affect a partnership. Control individuals and control freaks are bound to face trouble in the near future. If they are looking to be a partner with someone who is struggling to make decisions, someone who will take risks will need to be able to make compromises.
Partnerships that are built on trust, commitment, similar values and philosophies and a culture that is compatible are likely to be successful in lasting. The partnership could be ruined in the event that any of these foundations are removed. Trust is the most delicate of them all. You can destroy trust and the rest can be destroyed like a deck of cards.