Churchill famously said after the Battle of El Alamein: “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” A year and a few months on from the UK’s referendum, that would be an apt description to employ here, writes Fiona Czerniawska of Source Global Research.....

It’s been a year in which we’ve heard clients wringing their hands with despair at what this means for their organisations, while simultaneously criticising consulting firms’ premature offers to help. We’ve also watched consultants attempting to seize the opportunity with one hand, while using the other to ward off the problems with attracting the best people, which will be inevitable once the immigration shutters descend.

But perhaps we have now reached the end of the beginning. Tussell, a data provider of public procurement information, revealed recently that the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy had just awarded a £1m contract to The Boston Consulting Group. As Gus Tugendhat, Tussell’s founder, points out, this isn’t the first Brexit-related consulting project to be bought by part of the UK government, but it does appear to be the biggest to-date. It’s interesting, because BEIS has more of a walk-on part in the negotiations, certainly compared to the Department for Exiting the EU, and because the focus of the work is more process than traditional strategy.

So will Brexit increase government expenditure on consulting services, after seven years of tight budgets? Even if the civil service can redeploy people to support the exit negotiations, it’s unlikely to have the breadth and depth of capability required, and its recruitment processes–even in normal times–are painfully slow. It’s therefore almost impossible to imagine that the government can get through the next couple of years without at least some ad hoc staff augmentation and programme management. At the same time, it’s not going to want to see headlines screaming about binge spending on consultants stretched across the tabloid media.

That means that the money for using consultants will probably have to come from other money that was already earmarked for investment programmes, rather than anything likely to attract the public’s easy ire. This leaves less money for innovation, modernisation, the transformation of government services–in other words, all the things other governments are investing in. If Brexiteers wanted a return to the 1950s, they could well get what they’re hoping for.


Fiona Czerniawska is a leading commentator on the consulting industry and a co-Founder of Source who provide specialist research on the management consulting market to consultants and their clients.