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When Did ‘Compromise’ Become a Dirty Word?

By Frank McKenna

By Frank McKenna

In his latest Downtown blog, Frank McKenna says that ‘compromise’ should be seen as a positive quality – and is the only thing that can stop the UK from ‘crashing out’ of the EU.

There was a time when the ability to negotiate, to compromise and to see the other persons point of view were seen as strengths.

Nowadays amidst the polarising shambles that is Brexit, the noise of social media, the hijacking of the Tory party by the hard right and Labour’s misty-eyed love-in with Jeremy Corbyn, anyone who is deemed to be ‘talking to the other side’ is branded weak, treacherous or a careerist.

Indeed, some political leaders have made public pronouncements suggesting that the idea of having a civil conversation with someone with opposing views is beyond their comprehension.

But, surely, in our everyday lives, we achieve many of our objectives through compromise. Through negotiation.

As someone who is married with daughters I have to compromise and negotiate on a daily basis. And most of the time I feel as though I’m on the wrong end of those negotiations.

On a serious note, in my day job, I negotiate with local authority officials. I compromise with members of my team. I have many civil conversations with people who don’t share my political views. It’s how I get things done. It’s how we all get things done.

And that is why I am convinced that the great British public would not only accept, but celebrate, negotiation and compromise on the issue that has so divided our nation for too long now – Brexit.

I hope that the talks between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition result in a deal that can garner the support of a majority in parliament. That will inevitably mean staying in ‘a customs union’ (heresy to Brextreemists) and also to arch- Remainers as it does mean leaving the EU.

The alternative will mean that we ‘crash out’ of the arrangement with our nearest and biggest trading bloc, put the union at risk, and suffer, at least in the short to medium term, genuine hardship for many of our citizens. For many businesses, ‘no deal’ would be calamitous.

The other option would be for a further referendum or a ’people’s vote’. As much as I’d love to see it, there appears to be little appetite either in the House of Commons, nor more importantly in the country.

If we can get an acceptable, compromised agreement, then perhaps we can return to a politics that may not be as polarised; as disruptive; as nasty. Sadly, I’m not holding my breath.

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