NEGOTIATION 101 states to the effect: “For a negotiation to take place, parties must be prepared to alter their positions.” Simple, right? Well not so for certain politicians.

Those of greater years will recall with grim clarity, the disastrous sale of 395 tons of the UK’s gold reserves.

Gordon Brown made a novice error as a negotiator by announcing in advance his intention to sell the gold, which unsurprisingly had the immediate effect of depressing gold markets. Some estimate in today’s terms the UK lost around £7 billion on the sale. It’s feasible he’d made less of a loss by popping all 395 tons into very large envelopes, dispatching it to We Buy Any Gold and accepting their first offer.

Most folk of an ordinary disposition keep in mind a favourite saying of my dear (late) old mum, “Once bitten twice shy”, but not Westminster seemingly. No, what it prefers to do is once bitten, offer the bellicose assailant another part of its anatomy in which to bury fangs.

The fresh anatomy offered to the beast was of course the Royal Mail “fire sale”. Demonstrating a fiscal prudence as profound as those caught by online romance scams, Messrs Cable and Fallon lost potentially £700 million on the deal.

We’ve since seen history repeating itself with the rescue then sale of RBS, looking likely to lose the nation around £2.1bn. Phillip Hammond is quoted as stating the funds raised will go towards the national debt.

Not to be outdone Theresa May is well on course to lose whatever is left of UK manufacturing with Brexit, but I’m just going to highlight one example as it has a direct effect on Scotland.

We know that the moment Brexit was announced the very business savvy Japanese were swift to voice concerns.

Sky News reports the Japanese have issued a 15-page document outlining their position at the G8, if May is unable to resolve issues of Brexit which will affect Japanese businesses in the UK.

The value to the UK of Japanese business investment is quoted as around £46.5bn in 2016. Of which the Scottish Government is quoted as stating: “With 85 Japanese-registered businesses operating in Scotland, Japan is Scotland’s 7th biggest source of direct investment. Collectively their turnover in Scotland last year was £1.489bn – a rise of £187m.

“This represents an increase of 520 local employees on 2015 figures and an additional £187m Scottish turnover.”

The melancholy course of Brexit negotiations indicates (I’d aver) no reassurance whatsoever for foreign investors such as the Japanese.

Whilst the EU mocks May’s attempts at negotiation – eg, Angela Merkel apparently had the press in stitches reporting that she’s be stuck in the same recurring “Make me an offer” conversation with May. It’s reported the rest of the conversation went as such: Ms Merkel said that when she replied “but you’re leaving – we don’t have to make you an offer”, Ms May replied again, “Make me an offer”.

I can’t really speculate on the outcome of the Japanese and their continuing commitment to the UK, but fear that May’s antics with Brexit are akin to leaving a toddler with matches in a hay barn, with the absolute conviction the barn will still be intact upon your return.

If the Japanese decide to partially move some of their manufacturing overseas, then what I do predict is May will pay whatever sum is needed to preserve English sites, treating those based in Scotland as collateral damage as we’ve just witnessed with Young’s Seafood.

The closer we get to Brexit, the more I’m now minded that now is the time!
Piers Doughty-Brown