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After Brexit, French politicians want English language out of EU

By Aditi Khanna
June 28, 2016 16:44 IST
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The English language may be one of the casualties of Brexit as it emerged that no state other than the United Kingdom has registered it as a primary language among the 28 countries within the European Union.

English has been the top choice for European Union institutions but Britain's vote to leave the union last week could trigger a ban on its use.

"We have a regulation where every EU country has the right to notify one official language," Danuta Hubner, the Polish Member of European Parliament who heads the European Parliament's constitutional affairs committee, told a press conference in Brussels.

"The Irish have notified Gaelic and the Maltese have notified Maltese, so you have only the UK notifying English," she said in reference to the fact that English is in everyday use in member countries Ireland and Malta.

Hubner said that although English was the "dominant language" used by the EU civil servants and MEPs, in legal terms "if you do not have the UK, you do not have English", The Times reported.

Regulations would have to be changed to retain the language, requiring a unanimous vote from the 27 remaining states.

The EU has 24 official languages but for daily business, the European Commission and council of ministers use English, French and German.

Although English is the most popular foreign language in all but five European countries, French politicians have led calls since the Brexit vote for an end to its dominance.

However, the Germans are wary of allowing the French their way.

"We have a series of member states that speak English, and English is the world language which we all accept," said German EU commissioner Gunther Oettinger, before joking that if Scotland was to join separately, it could apply for English as their primary language.

EU documents and legal texts are translated into all 24 official languages of the bloc.

If English were to lose that status, Britons would have to do the translation themselves.

Image: The Union Jack (bottom) and the European Union flag are seen flying, at the border of Gibraltar with Spain, in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, historically claimed by Spain, June 27, 2016, after Britain voted to leave the European Union in the EU Brexit referendum. Photograph: Jon Nazca/Reuters

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Aditi Khanna in London
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