Skip to content

Roadmapping the future of mobility

March 22, 2017

I was delighted to work with Cambridge University’s Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) to facilitate a pilot event to be called ALFI. This stands for Alternative Futures Insights. The Round Table was initiated by Anna-Marie Greenaway, Director of International University and the topic chosen for the first UK pilot was on the future of mobility – for people and freight.

The Round Table was at the end of February at the Møller Centre, at Churchill College Cambridge: I had not been there before – it is really well organized for our sort of event, with very helpful staff used to providing for the range of people that we gathered together. These included academics from Anna’s network and Dr Nicky Athanassopoulou’s network at IfM, experts on transport from the European Commission, and futurists. From BP, Mike Muskett, Distinguished Advisor Downstream Technology and Dr Dan Walker, Head of Emerging Technology and members of his team joined the lively discussions.

After introductions over a sociable dinner at St Johns College, the next day we tackled an agenda integrating two different methodologies – scenario planning and road-mapping on the topic of “what mobility in Europe might look like by 2040 for both people and goods”.

Scenario planning traces its history back to just after the Second World War, when Hermann Kahn pioneered the technique of “future-now” thinking, aiming through the use of detailed analysis plus imagination to produce a report as it might be written by people living in the future, to promote debate on nuclear weapons. Since then the method has been used extensively for creating future mental models to improve the quality of decision-making.

Roadmapping is a powerful technique regularly used by companies, government organisations and academic institutions to establish and support strategy and innovation. Roadmapping explores, manages and communicates the linkages between technology, research and product development to commercial objectives and market opportunities through a structured visual framework.

Roadmapping blog

We started by emphasizing that scenarios are not forecasts and went on to use Three Horizons to capture drivers of change important for the future of mobility to 2040. The Third Horizon social and economic drivers were used to form the scenario axes. In principle, the technology-based drivers from all Three Horizons would be then examined in all the scenarios, using the road-mapping process. In practice, due to time pressure, we used the scenarios to highlight technologies implicit in their development and did not get time to examine those generated through the drivers discussion. These were however captured for the write-up.

The workshop used the Strategic-Plan (S-Plan) framework developed by the IfM over a period of several years [[1], [2]]. The framework was configured to elicit the emerging technology implications from each scenario developed and evaluate which technologies maybe important for several scenarios.

If you are interested in finding out more, please contact either Nicky Athanassopoulou ( or Gill Ringland (


[1] Phaal, R., Farrukh, C.J.P. and Probert, D.R. (2004), “Customizing Roadmapping”, Research Technology Management, 47 (2), pp. 26–37.

[2] Phaal, R., Farrukh, C.J.P. and Probert, D.R. (2007), “Strategic Roadmapping: A workshop-based approach for identifying and exploring innovation issues and opportunities”, Engineering Management Journal, 19 (1), pp. 16–24.

Written by Gill Ringland, SAMI Fellow and CEO.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of SAMI Consulting.

If you enjoyed this blog from SAMI Consulting, the home of scenario planning, please sign up for our monthly newsletter at and/or browse our website at

Work Automation

March 15, 2017

This is the first of three blogs leading up to a forum on the future of work in health. IN this first blog, David Smith, Chief Executive of Global Futures and Foresight, looks at the wider context of automation in the workplace and its impact

DS blog

The rate of change is such that by 2027, 75 percent of the companies in the S&P 500 are predicted to be companies that are not in the index today. Adapting to the underlying economic, technological and social changes that are reshaping the world of work will be critical for incumbents wishing to survive and thrive.

One major area of change obviously lies with technology; not so much with the technology per se but in what it enables organisations to do. Many of the technologies underpinning digital transformation are relatively prosaic yet nine in ten organisations in 2016 still reported the implementation of digital transformation as a significant challenge, with 70 percent of these citing internal complexity as an inhibiting factor . In addition, a wide range of ostensibly differing industries and professions possess a common set of characteristics that are open to codification and thus automation. How such organisations can successfully merge artificial intelligence (AI) and humans to work together remains an infinitely bigger task than the digital changes made thus far, and one that few seem prepared for.

The organisational and leadership implications of artificial intelligence are enormous. Jobs, processes, the relationship with consumers, patients, citizens and organisational models will all be reworked by artificial intelligence. Indeed, PwC says 64 percent of CEOs believe that robotics will bring new innovations to their business models. Crafting models that enable a given organisation to frame these challenges as opportunities – and then to capitalise on them – will be a huge task, requiring multidisciplinary thought and genuine innovation.

Such changes may in fact be necessary for the organisation to evolve at the same rate as its wider environment. The rate at which medical knowledge is being generated is estimated to be doubling every 18 months. This gives practitioners little chance to stay abreast of all developments, even within their field of expertise. Even medical students stand little chance in the current educational set-up, since the time from acceptance in a program to graduation is likely to see a doubling of medical knowledge twice over. The ability of algorithms to help deliver the most relevant details and updates to doctors (as well as for students), on-demand and on a case-by-case basis holds great potential.

There is also the possibility, that, along with other trends, emerging AI will open new possibilities in future medical business and organisational models. AI capability is advancing at such a rate that as many as 47 percent of jobs (or at least the tasks within them) will be highly susceptible to automation over the next two decades. In 2016, an autonomous robot surgeon bested human doctors in stitching up pig intestine. In addition, haptically enabled robots, able to touch and feel, have enabled remote diagnosis and abdominal ultrasound imaging. Alone these developments are not enough to constitute an immediate threat to the current model. It is, however, worth recounting that in their seminal study, Osbourne and Frey suggested surgeons and physicians were amongst the least likely of all professions to be automated, at 0.42 percent. This clearly suggests that even within those jobs unlikely to be fully automated, automation is likely to feature alongside the human worker.

Automation is likely to contribute to a quickening ‘skills turnover’ in the coming years. A Deloitte survey found that 75 percent of executives believe that automation will require new skills over the next several years. The ability for the organisation at large to change successfully is questionable however, much as it is with the related digital transformation process. Only 13 percent of executives believe their organisation’s capabilities to redesign work done by computers to complement talent are excellent. By contrast, 34 percent see them as weak. The friction, between what is needed and what is organisationally possible will account for much turbulence.

As a result, ‘…in the Next Economy, companies (will) use technology to augment workers, not just to replace them, so that they can do things that were previously impossible,’ says Tim O’Reilly. Given that flatter and even decentralized work structures are better equipped to cope with ambiguity, speed and evolving digital norms, it is quite likely that much work will occur within team units. Bain predicts that ‘…by 2027, most work will be project-based, with agile teams (internal and external) the dominant unit.’ Designing for this will be key, with GE Healthcare’s Chief Patent Officer Greg Petroff, noting that design thinking should be used ‘…to have multidisciplinary teams frame the problem space more accurately. It’s a great process for stakeholder alignment,’ he suggests. Healthcare is set for radical change, and carefully planned and implemented AI solutions may be key to a successful transformation.

In the next two blogs we will look at the social, technological and environmental changes that will drive change in health care; and then look at specific potential impacts on the work that professionals and others do in health and social care.

Written by David Smith, Chief Executive, Global Futures and Foresight.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of SAMI Consulting.

If you enjoyed this blog, sign up for our monthly newsletter at and/or browse our website at


Re-using scenarios in strategy

March 10, 2017

Scenarios are the most powerful vehicles I know for challenging our mental models about the world and lifting he blinkers that limit our creativity and resourcefulness” Peter Schwartz

The Strategic Foresight method that is most widely taught in Business and Management Schools is scenario planning or scenario thinking. In this module we explore when and how to build and use scenarios as part of a Strategic Foresight toolkit. It is largely self contained but assumes a knowledge of environmental/horizon scanning. It covers some of the well known examples of scenario thinking in action as well as many other examples. It is an extensively updated and extended version of a brief that appeared in “Business: the ultimate resource”, ISBN 978-1-4081-2811-4.

What is scenario thinking? Scenarios as models of future worlds

Scenario thinking creates possible future outcomes (scenarios) to improve the quality of decision-making. One of the best definitions of scenarios is by Michael Porter:

an internally consistent view of what the future might be, not a forecast but one possible future outcome”.

At a time of volatility and change, managers need to be able to step out of their current framework and imagine future worlds – which may arrive sooner than expected.

But some organisations feel that they do not have the capability to develop scenarios, for instance because they are not sure what questions to ask, or because they do not feel confident of their expertise outside their operational domain. In these cases, using existing scenarios is really useful.

Why use existing scenarios?

Using pre-existing scenarios as a basis for work in an organisation makes a lot of sense under some circumstances. For example

  • Where the external environment is a dominant factor, e.g. the economy, then using scenarios based on economic futures to frame a discussion of implications for different parts of the organisation can be helpful
  • Where the intention is to introduce scenario thinking to a group of people for the first time, it is often useful to use external “reputable” scenarios to allay suspicion of the provenance
  • Where an organisation has developed scenarios already – for instance with an internal task force – and business units or functions need to explore the implications for their functions and roles.

quoteSources of scenarios

There are many well-established global and national organisations that undertake scenario studies on a regular basis, for instance

The scenarios below have been used across industry sectors and geographies:

An up-to-date list and links are maintained on the Unlocking Foresight Know How web site,

How to use existing scenarios

Existing scenarios are best explored in workshop mode. They need to be briefed as “fairy stories” which have been useful to other groups in developing their thinking. It is important that these workshops are held off-site to signal “different”, and that the participants have the opportunity to think themselves into the scenarios through sharing among the group members. A two-day format is good to allow reflection and absorption time; so residential workshops work better than non-residential.

More can be found in our scenario primer,

Written by Gill Ringland, SAMI Fellow and CEO.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of SAMI Consulting.

If you enjoyed this blog, sign up for our monthly newsletter at and/or browse our website at

Melding machine learning and participatory foresight

March 1, 2017

Last year SAMI colleagues assisted in beta-testing a workshop process design which was used in a project looking at the skills that may be required in the future and is the subject of the following article.

Occupations, Tasks, Skills: what might we need most in the future?


What do you want to be when you grow up? Are you thinking about choosing a new career? Worried about the jobs available for your children, and what skills they might need to succeed in the future? Pearson, the world’s largest education company, has sponsored Nesta UK and the University of Oxford in forecasting future jobs availability and skills requirements.

The resulting project, “Employment in 2030: Skills, Competencies, and the Implications for Learning,” explored which occupations may disappear in the future, and which may be in greater demand. Robots and smart things everywhere are supplanting human labour —how many occupations are actually in jeopardy?

Official government occupational lists from the UK and the USA provided the starting point for the project. Each occupation’s description includes a list of typical tasks and the skills they require. Consequently, forecasting the potential for growth or decline of a specific occupation also indicated the potential for growth or decline in demand for specific skills: will we still need chefs in the future?

Or will nimble robots assemble raw ingredients into gourmet meals in gleaming restaurant kitchens? Does that only mean that restaurants no longer require line cooks, and that the chef’s key tasks—of designing the dishes and curating the meals, calculating the ingredients required and their most efficient use—and related skills will still be in high demand?

Understanding what skills future occupations will require helps educators understand what the critical educational needs of the future might be. What do people really need to know to thrive in the transformed economy of the future?

How can experts work together to help train an algorithm about occupational futures?

Pearson, Nesta and the University of Oxford set out to explore these questions with a unique futures approach: a dialogue between human experts and an active learning algorithm. The array of methods available to foresight researchers and forecasters splits across Snow’s two cultures: the highly data-driven and quantitative vs the data-informed, intuitive and qualitative. This project sought consciously to bridge the two.

It’s a tricky bridge to build. Nesta invited world class thinkers to discuss emerging changes and their potential effects on occupations to one workshop in Boston, and another in London. I should also declare an interest at this point: I was commissioned to design and facilitate the workshops that elicited the expert opinion that informed the algorithms.

The workshop attendees were looking forward to a stimulating conversation and discussion about transformations in jobs and labour. The active learning algorithm that we needed to feed, on the other hand, simply wanted those experts to rate possible growth or decline in 30 occupations—not a very interactive task. Our goal was to design a process that supported wide-ranging thinking about change, stimulated discussions across the expert perspectives in the room—and paused periodically to inform the algorithm, via a simple web-based input form.

How did we do it? The most critical part of the process design was explaining clearly what we were asking participants to do, and why: the introductions to the project goals (understanding what skills the future will require), the overview of machine learning (introducing them to the algorithm they’d be training), and their role in sharing data and contributing insights. Second, while many of the experts had deep understanding of one sector of change, we wanted everyone to have a shared baseline of changes across multiple sectors of changes that might affect the future of occupations. Thus a key component of the project was extensive research into critical trends, and summarising them as a trends deck for discussion.

The workshop live

What, then, did we actually do on the day? Each workshop began with a round of introductions that included—as an icebreaker and a way to frame discussions —the question, “When you were ten, what did you want to be when you grew up?” It turns out that even economists, social scientists, and technology experts wanted to be astronauts or soccer stars when they were ten!

The project team then galloped rather rapidly through the extensive map of trends and emerging issues affecting economic activity and potentially transforming occupations over the next twenty years. After listening to a data-dense presentation for thirty minutes, participants deserved an opportunity to process the information and its implications, and to discuss the trends amongst themselves. We wanted them to think about how those impacts might affect all the different activities in the economic landscape. We also wanted to switch thinking modes from listening (verbal) to mapping impacts and interconnections (visual).

To spur that conversation and encourage that thinking mode, we printed out a table-sized cartoon of a city landscape (office buildings, retail space, government buildings, arts and leisure, manufacturing facilities, transport infrastructure, agriculture, suburbs, etc.), and a deck featuring each of the key trends and emerging changes, summarized in a phrase. Participants worked in pairs to cluster the trends they thought reinforced and amplified each other, and then placed each change or change cluster on the map where they thought it would have the greatest impacts.

If they thought the change affected more than one economic activity, they could use coloured tape to connect their chosen change to other activities. We then asked them to summarise by suggesting two occupations that, as a result, would increase in future, and two that would decrease.

After stretching their mental muscles with that exercise, we moved on to labelling specific occupations with directional forecasts—“will this occupation increase or decrease in the next twenty years?”—an activity that was assisted by fact sheets that included a definition of the occupation, its specified tasks and required skills, and historical trend data summarizing its growth in the economy. We instantly displayed the forecast output to the group, so they could discuss the range of answers, explore the different assumptions each of them used to arrive at their forecasts, and potentially amend their initial judgments. Participants could refer to the trend deck for change ‘evidence’ to support their assumptions and forecasts. To provide the algorithm with its required base of thirty occupation evaluations, we repeated this process two more times.

Giving the participants discussion space during the occupation forecast labelling gave them an opportunity for unconstrained and exploratory thinking, in contrast to the very constrained mental process of assigning ‘increase or decrease’ labels to 30 different occupations. But it didn’t provide space for another obvious potential output from combining emerging changes, forecasts of impacts on current occupations, and human creativity: brainstorming entirely novel occupations, or radical transformations in current occupations. To capture those creative insights, participants ended the day by pairing up again and scrawling their wild and divergent extrapolations of the occupations of the future on a wall mural with the key change clusters already posted.

Emergent forecasting… watch this space

The research team has mapped the interesting changes, the experts have discussed the possible impacts, and the algorithm is computing. We are looking forward to the output: forecasts of potential future growth—and decline—in specific occupations in the UK and the USA and, more importantly, in the range of critical tasks and skills that may be required of the next generation of workers.

Web pundits trumpet the erosion of employment due to increasing roboticisation and the emerging ecology of ‘smart everything’ (cities, factories, cars, toasters, you name it). Nesta has just demonstrated at least one instance where human intuition and machine learning can work hand in hand. Maybe that’s the best future we could hope for.

Written by Wendy Schultz, SAMI Principal. A version of this article  was previously published in the January 2017 edition of Compass, the newsletter of the Association of Professional Futurists, and is republished with their permission under a Creative Commons licence. There is more information, and project reports, at Nesta UK.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of SAMI Consulting.

If you enjoyed this blog, sign up for our monthly newsletter at and/or browse our website at

How should families protect themselves under the new Bereavement Benefits system?

February 23, 2017

From April 2017 the Government is changing the rules on bereavement support for new claimants. 

Existing ones will carry on under the previous regime. Under the old system there were three benefits. These are now combined into one “bereavement support payment”.

First there was a lump sum of £2,000 provided that you were under pension age and your spouse, or civil partner, had paid NI contributions on earnings equal to 25 times the lower earnings limit in any one year.

Although if they died as a result of an industrial accident then that was not required. Under the new system a family without children will get £2,500 and one with children will get £3,500.

This is a significant improvement although it is still below the cost of many funerals. And of course, it does not contribute towards any debts, such as paying off a mortgage. Life and critical illness insurance remains essential cover for such circumstances. It may however reduce the amount of basic cover needed under low-cost funeral plans.

Second there was bereavement allowance for those with no children. It was only payable if you were 45 years old, or older and was payable for 52 weeks.

The amount you got was dependent on the amount your partner had paid into the state pension and also on your age. It was taxable and offset against any contributory benefits you might be entitled to, for example contributory based JSA. At 45 you could get up to £33.77 a week but you would then have your JSA reduced by that amount.

Under the new system you would get £100 per month payable for 18 months and it is not taxable or offset against contributory benefits. So overall, another improvement on the current situation.

Finally we move to the sting in the tail, widowed parents allowance (for those with children).

This was payable if you had dependent children or your partner was pregnant until children ceased to be dependent. The amount was based on your partner’s contributions to the state pension up to an amount of £112.55 a week. It was taxable but you would be entitled to child tax credits.

As with bereavement allowance it would be offset against other contributory benefits. Under the new system, it is £350 per month and is payable in full if your partner has paid NI contributions for a full year. It is not taxed and not offset against other benefits. However it is only payable for 18 months. For families with children this is a very significant reduction in state support.

So what should families do to protect themselves under the new arrangements? The solution is family income benefit insurance.

This insurance currently has a tiny market. It pays out for the term of the policy based on the income of the deceased partner. For two income households it is essential to purchase a policy that covers each life individually.

The interactions with universal credit mean that, assuming the surviving partner continues to work, such a family will have little or no entitlement to benefit after the 18 month period.

I think the changes offer an opportunity for increased sales and innovation in the family income benefit market.

The abolition of support for families after 18 months means that serious consideration should be given to making FIB a rider to life/CI insurance sold as a standard part of protecting your family, rather than as a stand- alone niche product. Costs should also be low.

Even as a stand-alone product is it usually cheaper than term life.

Written by Richard Walsh, SAMI Fellow and first published in Cover magazine, January 2017

If you enjoyed this blog, sign up for our monthly newsletter at and/or browse our website at


Cities Outlook 2017: Brexit and devolution

February 16, 2017

The Centre for Cities, a research and policy institute aiming to improve the economic success of UK cities, has just published its 10th annual analysis of economic data for the UK’s 63 largest towns and cities. To mark the occasion they held a briefing session and discussion at London’s City Hall.

Their Cities Factbook provides a wealth of data on the characteristics of places as different as Worthing, Belfast, Sunderland and London. An invaluable resource for researchers in the field. The accompanying Cities Outlook report includes 18 tables of comparative analysis of the towns and cities, covering areas such as employment rates (highest, Crawley), wages (London), inequality (most unequal, Oxford and Cambridge) and CO2 emissions per capita (lowest, Chatham).

Perhaps more interestingly, the report also looks at the geography of exports in the run-up to Brexit. It reports on particular issues facing ‘one-company towns’ in the UK – the most extreme being Sunderland.  The destination of exports is also analysed – 70% of Exeter’s exports go to the EU, while 46% of Hull’s go to the USA. The EU is the largest export market for almost every city, 46% of all cities’ exports are sent there. There is a divide between services and goods exports -with many goods coming from the North, and services from the South.

The election of six new metro mayors in 2017 represents a new level of devolution that could address the apparent disconnect from government apparently felt by many. The new mayors’ powers (although not all the same) should enable them to tackle the particular challenges and opportunities in their areas. The leads on to advocating a “place-based” industrial strategy.

The discussion session was opened by Stephanie Flanders, ex-BBC economics editor, Chief Market Strategist at JP Morgan and Chair of the RSA Inclusive Growth Commission. She also reviewed the relationship between productivity and place and the fact that regional variations meant a need for a granular strategy. She also opened up the issue of “place-based” budgets as a way of improving the efficiency of local spending.

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, extended the debate to cover the diversity of cities, highlighting the number of languages spoken in Bristol. He is also a member of the Global Parliament of Mayors, and is very active in bringing UK city leaders together to lobby for common causes – control over local budgets being high on the list. He highlighted the dilemma that arguing for a particular city’s needs tends to be sub-scale, while bringing them together risks division in what can be seen as a zero-sum budgeting game.

Martin Reeves Interim Chief Executive, West Midlands Combined Authority made similar points about the opportunity of a “place-based” industrial strategy and was looking forward to the opportunities offered by devolution.

In the Q&A that followed there was much discussion of local finance, either through regional banks, municipal bonds or local tax-raising powers (eg business rates). It was felt that SMEs in particular were getting a poor service from the finance sector. Marvin and Martin were (unsurprisingly) keen, as is Sadiq Khan, on local tax-raising powers, but Stephanie Flanders argued only for local spending powers on the grounds that some cities would not be able to raise as much as others.

The relationship with Brexit was also a major concern, requiring close communication between Government and the cities. Marvin said that, immediately after the vote, Bristol set up a working party to identify the local implications and submitted a detailed paper to Liam Fox – but they have yet to get a reply.

The issue of “post-code lottery” emerging from “place-based” spending plans didn’t come up – but must surely be of concern to many. The technological challenges of AI and robotics will also affect cities differently, and should be high on mayors’ list of issues to address.

Written by Huw Williams, SAMI Principal.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of SAMI Consulting.

If you enjoyed this blog, sign up for our monthly newsletter at and/or browse our website at


Brexit – May We Live In Interesting Times

February 8, 2017

The Times they are a’changing….

In my blog of 30 November, “Hard Brexit – Evolving Scenarios for Brexit

I identified three distinct key drivers of uncertainty:

  1. The way events play out in the UK – the debates between “hard” and “soft” Brexiteers, and the outcome of litigation over the role of Parliament in invoking Article 50, and the state of the UK economy and economic confidence
  2. Events in Europe – debates between those in favour of compromise and those unwilling to make concessions, influenced by political and economic developments within the EU
  3. External events – in the USA, Russia and elsewhere, and in the global economy and global trade

Subsequent events have highlighted the degree of uncertainty. Whilst the UK Government has clarified to some extent its aspirations for the post-Brexit UK, and the UK Parliament seems set to approve the invocation of Article 50, thus beginning the formal process of Brexit, developments elsewhere have muddied the waters.

Brexit, USA

The arrival of President Trump has marked a huge shift in the US Government’s attitude to Europe. For many decades, the USA has encouraged and supported the development of the EU. President Obama warned that post-Brexit Britain would be “at the back of the queue” for a trade deal with the USA, and he pursued the TTIP trade agreement with the EU. By contrast President Trump has praised the UK referendum vote to leave the EU – calling it “so smart” – whilst criticising what he sees as the German domination of the EU, and musing on the likelihood of its breaking up in the near future.

President Trump’s “America First” line on trade, and hostility to the EU contrasted with the emollient tone struck by UK Prime Minister Theresa May in her speeches at Lancaster House and Davos last month.

A View from the Med

On 26 January, I attended a seminar arranged by Macrogeo Consulting and the Italian Embassy in London on “The Future of Europe post-Brexit and post-Trump”. The speakers were very much part of the Italian Establishment, including the Ambassador himself, and former Prime Minister and EU Commissioner, Mario Monti. The view expressed was surprising, and exemplified the extent to which Brexit is taking place in a rapidly-changing world.

The argument presented was that the EU is facing stresses and challenges that cast doubt on its continued existence – at least in its current form. The challenges include:

  • Failed states, beset by war and terrorism at Europe’s eastern and southern borders
  • Surging population growth in Africa – with an average age less than half the EU’s
  • The vulnerability of poor and failed states to even modest climate change
  • The prospect of mass migration triggered by all three of the above factors
  • The rise of Russia and Turkey as disruptive influences on the EU’s eastern borders
  • The advent of a protectionist and Eurosceptic US Administration
  • The internal economic stresses within the EU, with the debtor countries mired in recession, whilst Germany runs a current account surplus with its neighbours

The view presented by Macrogeo was that by the next Electoral Cycle (ie 2021-22) the EU will be in its death throes. They saw the possibility of a new core, with Germany at its centre, accompanied by the countries of Northern Europe (including Scandinavia and the Baltic countries) and most of the former Warsaw Pact countries, and probably France. They foresaw the other EU countries (including Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal) forming an outer circle, outside the single currency, but within the single market; and “European Common Space” beyond that, including the UK, Ukraine, Turkey and other non-EU member states.

They posited four possible scenarios for the core, as set out below ranging from a Transfer Union (implying full fiscal and political integration), or a Customs Union, as now, to a loose confederation of sovereign nation states, or a German-dominated Union.


What was clear from this was that they did not see Brexit in terms of the UK departing from a durable and stable union. Rather, they saw Brexit playing out as part of a transformation in the EU, driven both by external pressures and internal imbalances that will at best lead to a realignment, and at worst to an anarchic break-up.

What does this mean for Brexit? We will have to see: but it is clear that at least some key European players are thinking about the strategic challenges and options for the EU itself. Their response to Brexit will – to some extent be influenced by their view of the EU’s best response to its own challenges. For example a hostile America and Russia may make an amicable settlement with the UK more desirable. Whilst the pressures of inward migration from Europe’s eastern and southern borders may drive the EU to press hard for open borders or may cause fragmentation within the EU as it seeks to negotiate a mutually acceptable deal.

The uncertainty will continue, as will the need to think flexibly about future scenarios. And events, especially in these interesting times, will continue to change the landscape even as the game plays out.

Written by David Lye, SAMI Fellow

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of SAMI Consulting.

If you enjoyed this blog, sign up for our monthly newsletter at and/or browse our website at

%d bloggers like this: