|The UK, the post-brexit EU trio and the rest of the member states|
The Big Four, also known as G4 or EU4, refers to France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.[excessive citations] These countries are considered major European powers and they are the Western European countries individually represented as full members of the G7, the G8 and the G20. France, Britain, Italy and Germany have been referred to as the big four of Europe since the Interwar period when the term G4 was used for the first time when French president Nicolas Sarkozy called for a meeting in Paris with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Gordon Brown and Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel to consider the response to the financial crisis during the Great Recession. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development describes them as the "Four Big European Countries".
The leaders of the four countries usually have a series of joint video conference calls with the US president (see NATO Quint), or with other leaders, on international issues. With Barack Obama they discussed for example the TTIP, the Syrian civil war and the use of chemical weapons during the conflict, the Crimean Crisis and international sanctions against Russia, the post-civil war violence in Libya, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the 2014 American intervention in Iraq and the Ebola virus disease. With Russia's President Vladimir Putin, they discussed, for example, the Vienna peace talks for Syria.
|EU Big Four|
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France, Britain, Italy and Germany have been referred to as the big four of Europe since the Interwar period (1919-1939), when the four countries signed the Four-Power Pact and the Munich agreement. Britain and France, permanent members of the League of Nations' executive council along with Italy and Japan, were involved in a policy of appeasement towards Germany. World War II (1939-1945) saw Britain, France, Russia, China and the US fighting against Germany, Italy and Japan. The defeat of the axis powers resulted in the formation of the United Nations, where the five victorious countries were granted a permanent seat in the Security Council. Italy, Germany and Japan experienced a post-war economic miracle and took part in the 1st G6 summit along with France, the US and the UK in 1975.
Since 1945, France and Britain have often acted alone in defence policy matters while Italy and Germany have preferred to act within the framework of international organisations. For example, Britain, France, Italy and Germany are the EU countries represented in the Syria peace talks, but only France and the UK are directly bombing ISIS in Syria, while Germany and Italy prefer to give military aid and to send training troops.
The Quint (or NATO Quint) is an informal decision-making group consisting of five western powers: the United States and the big four (France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom). It operates as a "directoire" of various entities such as NATO and the G8/G20.
The idea of a trilateral axis on foreign policy issues was proposed by French President Charles de Gaulle to his British and American counterparts (see Fouchet Plan). However, that plan was never implemented. Meetings between the foreign ministers of these three countries and West Germany became known as Quad meetings around 1980. They were largely symbolic and led to no real decision. The Quint in its current form seems to have begun as the Contact Group excluding Russia. Nowadays, Quint leaders discuss all major international topics participating in video conferences once every two weeks or meeting one another in various forums such as NATO, the OSCE, the G20 and the UN. The Quint meets also at ministerial and experts' level. 
A European Union membership referendum took place on Thursday 23 June 2016 in the UK and resulted in an overall vote to leave the EU, by 51.9%. The British government have triggered Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union to start the process to leave the EU, which is expected to take several years. The G4 now consists of the UK and the new EU big three (Germany, France and Italy), the large founding members of the European Community that have retaken a leading role in Europe following the decision of the UK to leave the EU.
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