A FRIEND of mine is a successful and well-respected barrister, currently part of the legal team on a prominent, national enquiry. Occasionally he escapes to visit Salisbury; a pub lunch, the tranquillity of the Close and the transcendence of choral evensong. In return, I get to share dinner and a bottle of rather nice claret from his wine cellar.

The other evening (part way through a second bottle…) we were talking about a negotiation I had recently concluded. I’d been mulling it over and commented that perhaps I’d settled too easily and should have stuck out for a better deal.

“The trouble with a compromise,” he said with the wisdom of years of complex negotiations, “is that neither side is happy with them. It isn’t what either of them would have chosen. Everyone walks away dissatisfied with the deal, but grateful that the painful business of negotiation and poring over small detail is done.” So true, I thought. My euphoria of having successfully concluded the negotiation soon evaporated to be replaced by endless misgivings; ‘what if….?’

Brexit is the same. As is increasingly evident – the deal before parliament doesn’t represent what any party wants. But with parliament and the nation pretty well split down the middle on what we do want, the agreement (itself a compromise with the EU) has merely opened up another rift – there are those who want Brexit, those who don’t, those who want this deal and those that would like a different one. By the time you read this – (three days after I’ve written it) my hunch is that far from being resolved, the nation’s political crisis will be murkier and protagonists even more intransigent.

Meanwhile, over the pond – another battle is taking place. Government workers laid off while Trump slugs it out with Congress over funding for a border wall – each side digging in, the stakes being too high to allow any settlement that would appear to their supporters that they had given in or climbed down.

But it’s the innocent that pay the price for others resolute, political determination. In the US workers have been laid off, independent contractors’ are dependent on contracts with the shut-down departments and beneficiaries (taxpayers, those on food relief, etc.) bear the financial consequence of work that isn’t now being done. While in the UK – business and government are spending millions preparing for a ‘No Deal’; companies are withholding investments or transferring business elsewhere, and whilst the damage to GDP and ‘inward investment’ may not seem immediately relevant to Salisbury – the slow down in the country’s economic momentum becomes yet another hindrance to the economic well-being for the city’s businesses, employers and community groups to overcome.

No one ever likes a compromise, but failure to reach one carries a price that those removed from negotiations frequently end up paying.