Towards a strategic agenda for the E3

Opportunities and risks for France, Germany and the UK
Research paper Published 28 April 2021 ISBN: 978 1 78413 474 7
Photo of Heiko Maas, Dominic Raab and Jean-Yves Le Drian

Alice Billon-Galland

Former Research Fellow, Europe Programme

Professor Richard G. Whitman

Senior Fellow, UK in a Changing Europe

This paper explores how the E3 format – involving France, Germany and the UK – might develop in response to the challenges presented by the UK’s departure from the EU. The paper outlines how the trilateral format has supported policymaking to date, most notably in dialogue on Iran’s nuclear programme. However, any effort to broaden and deepen E3 activity is now complicated by Brexit, which paradoxically makes E3 cooperation simultaneously more necessary and more difficult.

France and Germany are anxious to ensure that continued cooperation with the UK avoids undermining the EU. The dilemma for the UK is how to remain connected to EU decision-making without inadvertently being drawn into alignment with EU foreign and security policies. Rather than aiming at wider policy alignment, France, Germany and the UK are more likely to be able to develop a shared strategic agenda by identifying specific problems which they need to solve together.

The E3 could also be further ‘built out’ to include other partners on a case-by-case basis (and more is already happening with the Biden presidency through the Quad), and the paper outlines an approach to identifying specific areas on which France, Germany and the UK might further cooperate in the future.