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Some thoughts on scenarios for the EU referendum

April 20, 2016

As the EU referendum rapidly approaches, the news is full of competing visions of the future. Since SAMI is “the home of scenario planning”, we thought we should have a go too. So we used one of our recent team days to explore how different scenarios might play out.

Obviously there are two basic scenarios – UK leaves EU or stays in – and within these plenty of variations and possibilities. We thought that most organisations’ base case plans will have made an at least implicit assumption of the UK remaining in the EU, so we decided to focus on “Brexit” scenarios because they may require more organisational re-thinking. Of course we are not advocating the Brexit outcome – or the alternative – merely recognising its possibility and exploring its possible consequences: as we do whenever we consider scenarios. Nor are we suggesting that a vote for UK staying in the EU is a clear path either: that too will have many potential scenarios, depending on factors such the migration crisis, economic growth and the stability of the Euro, to name just a few.

We first identified the areas in which a Brexit case would have an impact, beyond the most discussed issue of the economy. These included security, education, sport and culture, scientific research, human rights, travel, expats, education, farming and the environment.

We then considered a spectrum of scenarios based on the strength of relationships with the (remainder of) the EU. One way of thinking about this was to consider the different relationships that North American countries have with the USA.

We addressed three examples, of varying degrees of closeness:

Canada Mexico Cuba c 2000


(©Daniel Shwen)

Very relaxed and open relationship with the USA, with many open border attributes Although seen as generally friendly, it has more immigration constraints and has some stricter regulatory conditions With formal embargoes and mutual distrust.

After vigorous discussion through the afternoon, we had descriptions of each of these scenarios as they apply to a Brexit UK-EU relationship. Over the next few weeks these will be posted on our blog – watch this space, and see what we think. Then please do comment and extend the discussion – all in the vein of exploring the possibilities rather than advocating an outcome.

Written by Huw Williams, SAMI Principal

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

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