Whittingdale: English language won’t lose relevance after Brexit

Bow Group chairman Ben Harris-Quinney was speaking after two French MEPs – Dominique Bilde and France Jamet, both of whom represent the right-wing National Rally party – launched scathing attacks on the use of English throughout the machinery of EU governance despite Brexit. Clement Beaune, France’s EU affairs minister, also indicated his aversion the use of English, proclaiming recently: “Let’s get used to speaking our languages again!”

Mr Harris-Quinney was unsurprised – but also unimpressed.

He told Express.co.uk: “The use of English in Europe, and indeed throughout the world, has not in modern times been to benefit the British but to utilise a common language that most parties could understand.

“It is no different for the EU. I worked in the European Parliament and would often observe for example Dutch officials speaking to Swedish officials in English, with no native English speaker present.”

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Mr Harris-Quinney suggested France had an ulterior motive when it came to the use of English.

He explained: “Macron and the French are seizing on Brexit and Merkel’s departure as an opportunity to become the pre-eminent European power, and pushing for French to be the new language of Europe is a clear signal of that.

“Even at the European Parliament most officials do not speak French to a strong proficiency, but most do speak English, and this is even more true for the European citizenry.

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This anti-Anglo prejudice and a commitment to identity politics over common sense practicality is exactly why we left

Ben Harris-Quinney

“What the EU does now is of course up to them, if they want to create more language barriers between themselves at the EU institutions it will make absolutely no difference to us, but this anti-Anglo prejudice and a commitment to identity politics over common sense practicality is exactly why we left.”

Speaking in the European Parliament earlier this week, Ms Bilde said: “Stop the contempt of the EU towards the French language.

“Europe is not only populated by technocrats from Brussels speaking wannabe English.

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“Stop ‘Globish’ and long live the languages of our nations including the beautiful language of Moliere!

“Since the British departure, the language of Shakespeare has become the official language only of Ireland and Malta.

“Brexit means that English has moved from the 3rd to the 17th language spoken in the EU while more than 70 percent of the documents still produced in the institutions are in English. This is no longer acceptable.”

She added: “Despite the departure of the United Kingdom, English remains the language of the EU, worse, the European institutions are expanding its influence.

“We will also notice that European texts are translated less and less or later, that interpreters are less available during debates, and that the EU seems to no longer recognise French as one of its official languages.

“Does the Commission intend to uphold the EU’s motto ‘united in diversity’ and finally put an end to an attitude which allows English to take over the functioning of the European institutions in a hegemonic way?”

Also speaking earlier this week, Ray Bassett, Ireland’s former ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, said moves to marginalise English had specific implications for his country.

He explained: “I warned about the probability of some decrease in the use of English in the EU Institutions in my book Ireland and the EU, Post Brexit.

“I said that Irish politicians would learn in the future the cost of failing to make the necessary compromises with the UK prior to Brexit.

“As far back as July 2017, then President of the EU Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said mockingly that ‘English is losing its importance in the EU’.

“With only five million native English speakers (the Republic of Ireland) in the EU today, the French and German authorities sense they can elevate their own languages at the expense of English.”

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