On March 16th 2017, Franco-British Chamber President Olivier Campenon was invited to speak at a prestigious conference at the Sorbonne University discussing the impact of Brexit on Europe’s future: « Après Brexit :Une Europe à plusieurs vitesses ? » (After Brexit: A multi-speed Europe?). The talk was held in one of the Sorbonne’s most beautiful amphitheatres, the Amphithéâtre Descartes, and although the subject at hand is not a philosophical one, the debate animated by a high profile panel was lively and engaging.
Underlining the complexity of the Brexit vote, Olivier Campenon explained that many British people saw the EU as a sort of intrusion in their daily lives, as the UK had always been such a “good student” when it came to applying EU regulations. He also discussed at length the fact that Brexit was heavily influenced by a “generational factor”, due to the vast difference in age of those who voted for and against leaving the European Union.
Joining Olivier on the panel was chief Brexit Negotiator for the European Parliament Guy Verhofstadt, journalist Jean Quatremer (who writes for Libération and The Guardian), Marcel Grignard (Head of the think-tank “Confrontations Europe”) & Nicolas Vinocur (Paris correspondant for Politico).
Jean Quatremer said that he was extremely pessimistic about Europe’s future, and hoped that Great Britain would “explode on itself”. Olivier stressed the importance of having a rational and non-emotional reaction to Brexit. He explained that although the UK may have chosen to leave the European Union, it has not chosen to leave Europe and that “The Europe that we have created is far more than a political union.” He then went on to list the UK’s importance as a European trade partner and used the example of Switzerland for the sort of agreement that could be made to ensure that Britain remains an active member of the European community, without being a member of the European Union.
Guy Verhofstadt pledged to continue to fight for the fairest deal possible for all parties involved and stated that he would carry on campaigning for British citizens to have the option to keep their “EU Nationality”. He went even further to say that, “in part, the Eurosceptics are right to criticize the EU”.
The debate clearly continues. The Franco-British Chamber will persevere in its objective to assist and represent the interests of its members,as well as encourage a pragmatic, pro-business solution that keeps in mind both countries.
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