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Henri de Castries did not mince his words when speaking about the Brexit fallout to the Anglo-American press Association in Paris recently:
“When you see two old Etonians (UK Prime Minister David Cameron and former London Mayor Boris Johnson) playing with their country this way, it doesn’t show a lot of leadership or vision. And this game has been played for purely internal political reasons.”

The outgoing (as of Sept 1) Chairman and CEO of AXA and his successor, Thomas Buberl hosted some two dozen AAPA members for lunch at AXA’s headquarters on Avenue Matignon on July 1. As the UK’s referendum vote in favor of leaving the European Union had taken place just aweek before, attendees were eager to hear what the leader of one of Europe’s most important financial services companies – with a significant presence in London – had to say.

“The Brexit vote reflects the anxiety of the middle class in Europe,” de Castries continued. “The model we’d lived under in Europe since World War Two was one of job stability, economic growth but not too unequal. We believed the next generation would continue to have a better destiny.”

Rather than blame only the UK’s outspoken pro-leave faction, de Castries pointed the finger at the EU as well. “No one today is explaining the European Union vision,” he opined. “We have had 60 years of peace, we have had growing incomes, and we are the biggest market in the world.But since the beginning of this century there has been a lack of vision and a lack of narrative.”

Of the fast-track admission of East Bloc countries such as Poland after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, de Castries said, “We were right to open our borders to the east. But it was wrong to create a bureaucratic monster in Brussels.”

-Shellie Karabell