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And despite former European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s apparent disdain, Mark Littlewood, director-general of the Institute for Economic Affairs, said English would only become more important in the years to come. Mr Littlewood was speaking at the end of a week which saw UK negotiator David Frost meet with EU counterpart – and Frenchman – Michel Barnier for further talks in Brussels aimed at thrashing out a trade deal.
English is increasingly the global language of commerce. That irritates the European Union somewhat and it certainly irritates the French
However, despite Mr Juncker’s 2017 description of English as “less important than it was”, Mr Littlewood said the reverse was the case – and suggested its common usage across the globe offers Boris Johnson a considerable advantage in tying up agreements with other countries.
Mr Littlewood told Express.co.uk: “English is increasingly the global language of commerce.
“That irritates the European Union somewhat and it certainly irritates the French.
“The European Union has got an interesting question facing it.
“Does it remain largely bilingual, despite the fact that the only native English speakers will be the very small Republic of Ireland?
“Or does it sort of put two fingers up to the English-speaking world and say ‘no we’re going to do everything in French?’
“I think what they do is very introspective and inward-looking.”
Looking further afield, Mr Littlewood said: “The use of the English language in other parts of the world is growing all the time – in India for example.
“We have the enormous benefit, the Americans and ourselves, of speaking the same language.
“So I don’t think that English is going to diminish as the global language of commerce.”
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With respect to Mr Juncker’s remark three years ago, he added: “It might diminish in terms of the number of translators you have sitting in the EU bureaucracy but that’s a rather different point to the one Jean-Claude Juncker might be making.
“In terms of getting real business done around real negotiating tables I think English is going to become a more important and more common language.
“In fact you can probably get by only speaking English and that might not have been the case 30 or 40 years ago.
“Those trends are our friends.”
Additionally, within the EU itself, Mr Littlewood was doubtful whether individual countries would agree with Mr Juncker’s assessment.
Mr Littlewood said: “Each time I go back to an EU country, almost every time, I am amazed how English has spread further still.
“The Scandinavians and the Dutch all speak it fluently.
“And a few years ago some of the railway stations were bilingual – they had signs in English.
“What the EU bureaucracy does with its protocols about translations is something of an irrelevance.
“In the real world, where real people do real business, the English language is here to stay and I think is going to be growing.
“In ten years’ time, anyone across the globe who wants to engage in international commerce is likely to be speak English and that is a substantive advantage for us here in the United Kingdom.
“It’s an opportunity to be the pioneers of international free trade, as we were a little over 100 years ago.”
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