President Lord Simon of Highbury, Vice-Presidents Eberhard von Koerber and Serge Weinberg, and Steering Group Chairman Michael Maclay reflect on the outcome of the referendum and what lies ahead for the Club of Three
In commemorating this year the twentieth anniversary of the Club of Three, and celebrating George Weidenfeld’s legacy, we are looking emphatically to the future. Our informal Franco-German-British network is as necessary today as it was 20 years ago, albeit after a shock to the world we have all worked in during these past years.
The UK’s Brexit referendum has raised many practical questions for both the UK and the European Union. We all need to understand better the challenges to the European project throughout our continent, including those arising from freedom of movement and migration, in particular in our Club of Three countries. We need to understand the perceived democratic deficit in Brussels, the failures by governments and media to communicate the advantages of European co-operation, and the perception that Brussels is all about bureaucracy and centralisation.
Europe must preserve its coherence both internally and looking outward to the world. There is a difficult period of negotiation ahead, during which the UK, France and Germany will re-define their relationship. Just as the Club of Three has provided a serious forum and a ‘Track Two’ for the Three to discuss matters of common concern in the past, this structure can offer the same important prospect in future.
Our unique mix of figures from business and politics, diplomacy and journalism will be all the more important, as the search continues for ties that bind, rather than conflicts that divide, three of the great powers of Europe.
The Club of Three has been successful in the past in identifying new ways of discussing issues, from industrial competitiveness to the scope for defence co-operation and the best tools for coping with the strains of the single currency. We have also developed fresh approaches to dealing with external partners, from the US and Russia to Israel, Turkey and China. These traditions will continue, focusing on the new questions we now face.
The Club will need all its inventiveness in the more challenging period ahead, so that our members from France, Germany and the UK can work together in an ever more complex Europe, within an even more uncertain global landscape. We shall do our best, with the help of our extensive network, to ensure that the Club of Three is up to the task.
Published in August 2016