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“Britain in 2030: Four Scenarios for post-Brexit Britain”: the global scenarios

October 11, 2017

This is the second of a series of four blogs springing out of the work we did to produce our scenario set on Britain in 2030. Our first blog dealt with some aspects of the model; this one will address the two ‘global’ scenarios, to be followed by one addressing the ‘local’ scenarios. We’ll follow it up with a set of conclusions.

SAMI Futures model

It is not the role of foresight to be political; it is our role to envision options and possibilities which provide frames for thinking about the future world. Political in any case is subject to any number of interpretations, and operates in the widest number of public spaces. Whilst, therefore, the UK’s decision to leave is a political one, and the response to it will be framed in a political context, the impacts of that decision will be in real-world effects which can be imagined and assessed. It is important to note that we do not make political judgements in scenario planning: we look at the impacts of the political judgements which others make.

Since the global models share the assumption that the current pattern of national engagement remains essentially focused on world trade, and the continuation of a global political outlook by the major powers and international bodies, the key distinction is between a synergistic and competitive approach to that global outlook.

The ‘global common approach’ quadrant is a development of the post-financial crisis, pre-Brexit world. It is convenient to think of it as international cooperation with a dash of the Olympic spirit: peoples working in harmony for a common aim and with common ideals. That implies a strengthening of international bodies – the UN, the EU – and of links across those bodies. Global governance improves, and governments work with each other in a spirit of mutual support. We would anticipate a growth in economic and social development; shocks to the world financial system would be smoothed out, and liberal values of equality and access to employment would continue to increase. The corollary is that free movement of people and capital would also be improved.

In this model, the UK would play an important part, since its constants of the English language, a trusted rules-based system, and an open, external focus would enable it to trade widely and smoothly. Negotiations with the EU would have resulted in a replicable model of frictionless trade, coupled with a movement of people almost identical to that prevailing before Brexit.

Pressure points would include aging populations in the west, encouraging immigration; the continuing rise in cyber crime as the world becomes more connected; and an increased focus on governance which may look like overheavy control on free enterprise.

The ‘global competitive’ approach is very different: against the Olympics, we have the international football competitions – teams of people competing against each other to gain and maintain dominant positions with little co-operation between the teams except in agreeing the basic rules of the game.

The international cooperative structure is therefore predominantly governed by an interlocking and frequently changing series of bilateral agreements, where nations attempt to gain the best possible deal for themselves, not for the community in large. Stresses and strains inevitably build up along the fault lines of those agreements. Migration is now based on national advantage – those people who have skills are in demand; those who do not have the skills needed by one nation or other are excluded.

Existing federal structures, especially Europe – and in this model we imagine that Scandinavia develops in its own way – become fortresses, both economically and in reality. Such matters as cyber security become more important as standards (and hence the ability to defend against attack) are regionalized. The desire for competitive advantage reintroduces subsidies for industry and technology development, and tariff barriers become significant. Developing countries would be locked out of the profitable markets behind these walls, though this may lead them into more effective regional alliances to develop the scale they need to be able to compete on the world stage.

For the UK, being outside the EU forces it to engage, rapidly, with bilateral deals to maintain access to markets – and, importantly, access into the UK of the imports it needs to maintain the local standard of living. This world looks more ‘capitalist’, but for Britain, it should contain opportunities – though they will have to be fought for.

Our next blog looks at what happens in a world where localization, not globalization, is dominant; one in which our scenarios look very different.

Written by Jonathan Blanchard Smith, SAMI Associate.

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

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