Brexit – time for Mediation?

On the 24th June, we woke to learn that the British public had decided that the 40 year relationship with the European Union was to come to an end, citing irreconcilable differences. The United Kingdom wants out much to the shock of its partners. Now we’re in a state of limbo, do our politicians play hard ball and seek to get the most out of the separation or will the win come from negotiation and compromise. Maybe it will take the support of a third party?

Before the vote, we heard how the Leave campaigners believed they would be able to obtain trade deals easily with the remainder of the EU, but we are now hearing some voices which are seeking to reach a punitive settlement with the UK, so as to dissuade other EU countries from leaving. Separation isn’t always simple, especially where there are other parties to take into account. In the case of Brexit, when Article 50 is triggered there is a nominal two year time period for negotiations to conclude. Some divorces also have a two year time period where there has been no adultery or unreasonable behaviour before the parties to the marriage can formally divorce.

The question we are asking now is what will happen next? The Leave campaigners appear to have no plan. The UK wants to ensure there is a plan in place which sets out the future relationship, before triggering Article 50. It is a little bit like telling your partner that you want to leave but just moving into the spare room. It leaves both you and them in an unsettling and uncertain place longing for closure. How long will the UK stay in the EU’s spare room sharing the kitchen and living room uncomfortably?

What would we advise as family solicitors? Well, that’s easy, we’d tell the UK and the EU to consider Mediation. This allows both the UK and the EU to work out agreed arrangements both in the short and longer terms that they can both accept. Joint meetings are arranged with a mediator or with two mediators. Mediation encourages both parties to come up with their own ideas and solutions. Sometimes these are ones that neither had thought of before. Mediators do not advise on and make decisions but they can help to open up new options and may offer suggestions. Those taking part in mediation are not put under any pressure to agree to something against their will. Mediators seek to keep the discussions on track and try to make the atmosphere as relaxed and constructive as possible. The discussions are informal and each party has opportunities to explain priorities and concerns.

Why choose Mediation? Mediation lets the UK and the EU, with the help of a Mediator, reach their own agreement. Because they have reached the agreement themselves they are both more likely to stick to the agreement which makes for a better future for us all. There need be no animosity, bitterness or conflict. The process should make the separation less stressful and easier for us all.