A Brexit for English as EU Language?

A Brexit for English as EU Language?A Brexit for English as EU Language?

English could vanish as an official EU language if Brexit proceeds. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has avoided using English, and a top EU parliamentary official has warned of language rules contained in EU treaties.

Danuta Hubner, a Polish politician and chair of the European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO), has come out with a warning that a British exit from the European Union could also lead to the elimination of English from the EU’s list of 24 official languages.

That possibility reverberated on Tuesday far beyond the administrative levels of Article 50—the provision allowing a member state to leave the bloc under EU treaty rules, AP reported.

Addressing the European Parliament on Tuesday, Juncker spoke only in French and German, clearly avoiding the use of English. During past crises, on the eurozone, for example, he had used English prominently as well.

“We have a regulation … where every EU country has the right to notify one official language,” Hubner had told a press conference late on Monday.

“If we don’t have the UK, we don’t have English (as an official language),” she warned, adding that keeping it would require assent by all remaining member states.

The chairman of AFCO was referring to the Treaty on European Union in its consolidated version published in early June that incorporates wordings of the Maastricht and Lisbon treaties of 1992 and 2007 respectively.

Her remarks prompted The Wall Street Journal to observe that the European Commission had begun using French and German more often in its external communications since Britain voted to leave the EU last Thursday.

English is the main working language of EU institutions and officials in Brussels and Strasbourg, and—to avoid misunderstandings—at the European Central Bank. It’s also one of three languages used for EU patent applications.

Hubner on Monday said if Britain quit the EU, Article 55 of the Treaty on European Union, dating back to Maastricht, listing the EU’s treaty languages would have to be expanded unanimously by the remaining member states to retain English as one of the bloc’s official languages.

French and German officials have long lobbied for their mother tongues to be more widely used in Brussels. English has been hard to dislodge as Europe’s lingua franca.