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Brexit in seven possible scenarios 

On June 27, 2016, Dr Patrick Lagadec examined some scenarios regarding how exactly the UK will leave the EU, and how Europe will react

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Scenario 1: Brutality

Considering the British desire to leave the EU, and the extremely harsh words used by its critics of Europe, European authorities take immediate and draconian measures, without the encumbrance of excessive legislation. These include the halting of all payments to the UK, termination of all employment of those currently working in Brussels and immediate ceasing of all agreements, etc.

Scenario 2: Quagmire

Proponents of Brexit do everything possible to delay any action that allows the exit to unfold; Europe does everything it can to avoid increasing difficulties with the British; everyone continues pretty much as before, all the while avoiding any clear admission that this is what is occurring. The British assume the EU Presidency in 2017, while giving assurances that the country is leaving Europe, despite regions, cities, neighbourhoods, social strata and generations being increasingly torn on the issue. Upcoming elections in other countries mean that nobody really dares to speak of the European project, nor provide any clarifications. Brussels attempts to carry on with its tasks, while trying to skim over constant contradictions and conflicting communications from all stakeholders.

Scenario 3: Diplomacy

We are given time for a diplomatic breathing space after the British vote, opening discussions with British officials in the heart of the Brussels administration – bodies largely comprising supporters of remaining within the EU. A massive workload is undertaken to find the best solutions for all, with the aim of preventing chain reactions and the effects of disorder cascading across the rest of Europe.

Scenario 4: Technocracy

The pro-European technocrats (both continental and British) take responsibility for organising the exit of the United Kingdom behind closed doors. They redraw, bilaterally, all multilateral agreements that existed within the Union (with the exception of one or two measures to maximise public appeal, such as provisions on migration).

Scenario 5: Refounding or resetting

Taking note of a deep malaise through Europe, which spreads far beyond the British case, along with the risks of further quagmires as the Brexit suporters seem to want to let things drag on, the founding countries of the EU decide to call a halt to the way that Europe operates, questioning and redefining its tenets and foundations, and signalling a desire to restructure, on a new basis, a Europe of citizens and nations. Everything is up for discussion.

Scenario 6: Explosion

The founding members begin to rip themselves apart. Britain offers assist them to maintain minimal cohesion so as to engage in exchanges, not for a final end result, but rather to please and maintain a positive public image. Brexit is quickly forgotten and the desires expressed by the referendum multiply into demands for referenda on anything and everything. One could even envisage referenda on whether to maintain the concept of Parliament, since henceforth any major strategic decisions require the mandate of a referendum, along with repeated calls for new referenda from those who do not agree with the outcomes, or bitterly regret their vote when the results are in. However, it is clear to everyone that such referenda are like a video game or reality television – the results are devalued, not taken seriously and are of little relevance. We see increased public marches, protests and demands for repealing the latest project – whether local, national or continental.

XXL scenario: Surprise…


Henceforth, in all issues, the question is to know how, with what lexicon and methods, we can navigate and take control in a chaotic world, where our foundations and landmarks are crumbling. This requires substantive work on our cultures, our preparations and our methods.

Dr Lagadec’s book, Le Continent des Imprèvus, Journal de bord des temps Chaotiques (Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 2015), opens discussions on how to create another culture and more abilities to meet the challenges of a chaotic world.

Patrick Lagadec, 30/06/2016
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