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Friday, December 13, 2013

#EUWarGames - How Open Europe (eventually) simulated the UK's future in Europe

Open Europe's first ever simulated negotiations over the UK's future in the EU have generated a lot of buzz. Check out this awesome #EUwargames twitter conversation for example.

We very much appreciated all the positive feed-back. However, there was something a bit "duck-like" about the OE team ahead of the event: calm on the surface, paddling like the dickens beneath.

In fact, organising #EUwargames left a few of the team rather shell-shocked. Here's the run down:


1500hr: Our French negotiator - in the form of former Europe Minster Pierre Lellouche - drops out (due to a combination of the French local elections and the crisis in the Central African Republic). Murmurs about surrendering before the negotiations prove false...

1600hr: The Nordic negotiator - Swedish shadow Foreign Minister Urban Ahlin - is forced to cancel due to having to fly out to Johannesburg to attend the Mandela memorial service. (Unlike some other leaders, we're yet to receive photo evidence of this...).

1615hr: Cue furious attempts to find replacements.


0800hr: An emergency COBRA team meeting is called. With less than 48 hours before the event, the Open Europe team launches its contingency plans to replace our two casualties.

1300hr: After a flurry of phone calls and emails, no luck.

1900hr: Now with many OE team members on numerous MPs blacklist for essentially stalking them, still two negotiators down.


0800hr: With less than 24 hours to go, the French and Nordic replacements are still yet to be secured - jittery times in the office.

1200hr: Panic spreads. OE team member found rocking and crying in the corner of the office...we won't name names.

14:00hr: With some 15 hours left to launch, finally a breakthrough. We've managed to conscript one or our original top choices Vivien Pertusot, who heads the Brussels office of the French Institute of International Relations.

15:30hr: Another break-through. Ebba Busch, a prominent member of the governing council of the Swedish Christian Democrats, picks up the mantle and hops almost immediately on a plane to London. Fantastic news and (as they both proved in the event) more than adequate replacements.


0600hr: Three hours before launch, the phone rings. Fog in the channel (Heathrow), Europe cut off! British weather seems determined to sabotage the event with Ulrich Speck, our German negotiator, grounded in Frankfurt.

0700hr: Open Europe team gathers (eventually, note the empty seats...) in the headquarters for a pre-game briefing. Mood is cautiously optimistic, but the 'German question' remains unresolved. The COBRA unit decides that our moderator John Hulsman, who has lived in Berlin for some time, steps in to play a holding role.

0800hr: Concerns that the 'war games' concept could send the wrong message is taken on board but aggressively dismissed.
0830hr: Negotiators gather for a pre-game briefing to set the rules of engagement. Anticipation growing. Someone seems to have had some fun with the seating, with the UK and France directly opposite each other and Germany at the top of the table.

0930hr: Let the games begin! Negotiations start, but the German representative remains in a holding pattern above Heathrow. Maybe this is part of a cunning plan to let the others duke it out in the early stages...

1030hr: Britain's Andrea Leadsom opens with a broadside against the EU's inefficiencies and bloated bureaucracy - but ensures the tone remains one of reforming the EU to improve it for all. With negotiations in full flow, Germany arrives! Ironically fashionably late.

Although the actual negotiations did get a bit feisty - France was unsurprisingly hostile to any UK demands - thankfully no blood was actually shed, with John Hulsman doing a good job of keeping the peace around the table.

EU War Games in full flow (no helmets necessary)

Meanwhile the Open Europe team (below) was on standby to provide assistance to the negotiators, much like Sherpas would do in real EU negotiations. Fortunately no-one was required to hide under the table, as in the Major days.

Dictionary Corner: the Open Europe team on standby to check
trade figures or the precise wording of the Lisbon Treaty

To add a further dose of realism negotiations drag on longer than expected as Open Europe's best laid plans and timelines go out the window - why buck the trend?
Despite this the negotiators made good progress though certain Continental habits took hold.
1500hr: Following a cabinet reshuffle during the lunch break, negotiations over a 'Brexit' commence. Despite another strong opening from the UK, this time represented by David Heathcote-Amory, a sombre mood prevailed with many players regretting the UK decision to exit. Hans Kundnani, now playing Germany, brightens the mood evoking the spirit of Merkel and reminding all that he is "a rational woman".

After eight hours of gruelling negotiations the second scenario finally wraps up. With lots of ground covered and the negotiators suitably spent from battle everyone retires to the pub for a debriefing - peace breaks out over beer as is the age old tradition.


christhai said...

Sorry to hear of all your problems after so many thousands of hours of hard work to set it all up.

The "Teams" were with no doubt, VERY Pro-EU.

Was there a "Conclusion?"

What was it?

Denis Cooper said...

"Britain's Andrea Leadsom opens with a broadside against the EU's inefficiencies and bloated bureaucracy - but ensures the tone remains one of reforming the EU to improve it for all."

That's all that's needed, really - just a few adjustments to improve the EU for all, remove some of the inefficiencies, trim the bloated bureaucracy ... then we British will all be perfectly happy to have our national Parliament over-ruled through transnational majority voting, we will completely accept that any EU law will always have primacy over any national law passed by that subordinate Parliament, we will readily bow down before the EU Commission and before a bunch of almost entirely foreign eurofederalist lawyers in Luxembourg pursuing the agenda of "ever closer union", and of course we will cease to mind at all about the mass influxes of immigrants from new member states, no, not even if it was Turkey, and of course we will eventually give up and join the euro, and then we will put all our armed forces entirely at the disposal of the EU to further the interests of the EU as a whole...

I don't say that the woman Andrea Leadsom is stupid, only that she must think we are stupid.

Average Englishman said...

@DennisCooper said it all.

I truly wonder if you guys live in some sort of Euroworld other dimension where the majority of the people of the UK love the EU like Santa Claus and only need to make a few adjustments to their lives to accept for ever the blissful harmony afforded to such good little children by Santa and his happy little elves in Brussels. Dream on if you will but the Euro elections cometh ....

christina speight said...

The team of Leadsom + Open Europe is a supreme example of undermining a popular movement from within. There is (and with Cameron too) a determination to talk sceptic but act as full-blown europhiles

Lets be clear t - the British sceptics want no more interference from the EU AT ALL. No tinkering at the edges. Open Europ, however, muddies the waters and is guarranteed - if a vote on quitting ever comes - to act to back Brussels and a federal Europe.