Wednesday, 3 August 2016

What Brexit means (for now)

Brexit has been on my mind ever since I woke up at 3.20 am on 24th June 2016 and switched on the TV to check which way the EU referendum vote was going. At this time of night, it didn't really hit home with me what was happening. It all still felt surreal.

The next morning, as I was listening to an interview on Deutschlandradio, the radio host's comment did feel like a punch in the stomach: “Also, die Zukunft Europas – ab jetzt ohne die Briten?” (English translation: “So, the future of Europe – without the British from now on?”)

EU flag outside flat, spotted close to the City of London last week 

I would really have liked to write something on the topic myself, but since I'm currently inundated with work, I’m going to share with you instead what four of my colleagues have posted on their blogs in regard to the current situation and what Brexit means (for now at least). Amanda Wilson, Karen Andrews, Simon Berrill and Claire Cox have kindly agreed to let me use extracts from their articles for this blog entry.

Vote Leave campaign sign, found lying in grass along my jogging route in Shortwood near Bristol

Amanda Wilson:

I know that as a translator I probably should be 100% convinced that we should stay in the EU and so know exactly how I’m going to vote in June. But there’s nothing wrong without finding out more info to add to the gut instinct…So this is what I learned about why Brexit matters.


Looking at it the other way round, how would we have felt about decisions made in the wake of the financial crisis on the financial services sector, a big employer in the UK, if we had had to sit on the sidelines with no influence over the outcome? What will it be like in the future, trading with EU countries and having to obey EU regulations which we have not helped shape and which we may not agree with, much as Norway’s situation is now? And what about our position in the world? The Empire is long gone and the Americans would prefer we stay in the EU, suits their interests better – how much of that is because we speak English, I wonder? – so it seems that to continue to lead, we need to be in the EU where our position is stronger than as a single state. Certainly that’s what the pro-Europe camp think; their slogan is ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’.

Extract from Amanda’s post “Why Brexit Matters”, published on 15 February 2016

Vote Remain campaign sign in window, spotted during walk through London last week

Karen Andrews: 

Friday came as a shock to me as many in the UK. On Thursday night, I thought ‘Bremain’ had narrowly won the EU Referendum. There was a niggling feeling in my gut. I woke up on Friday morning to the profound shock of Brexit. No, it’s more than that. My heart is torn in two.


I woke up on Friday morning to a map of the UK that looked like a civil war. Britain divided between regions and generations.

Angela Merkel said that she does not want Brexit to be ‘nasty’. The European Union should note that the UK’s young people voted to remain in Europe. A nasty divorce will alienate them.

My 19-year-old son was disappointed. He went to Denmark last week. He was planning to go to Berlin, Stockholm and Barcelona this summer. It’s great to travel while young. It broadens the mind. My elder son is part of a generation that is open to Europe. He will remain so if the ‘divorce’ is handled with equanimity and an eye to future ‘rapprochement’. Will Europe restrict his travelling in future?

My 16-year-old son (who did not have a right to vote) was even more scathing about the election result. It is wrong to assume that his age group is not politically aware. The younger generation get their information from different sources to their parents and grandparents.


The European dream grew out of the chaos of two world wars. Today’s political chaos is an opportunity to create a new European dream for generations to come.

Extract from Karen’s post “Brexit and the European Dream”, published on on 26 June 2016

Statement by David Cameron on BBC News on 24 June 2016

Simon Berrill:

I suppose going on holiday the day after the referendum result was known was probably the best way to cope with the entire Brexit mess. Swimming in the beautiful Ionian Sea and drying off on the beaches of Corfu, I had plenty of time to think about how Britain leaving the European Union is going to affect me and what I’m going to do about it. Theories of all kinds have been published about whether the United Kingdom will actually go through with the mandate to cut itself off from Europe provided by the referendum result, but in planning my future I have to assume that it will, and that all the advantages I have enjoyed as an EU citizen living in another country will end within the next couple of years.

Professionally, as I wrote earlier this year in a blog post anticipating the possibility of Brexit, I don’t think there will be a great effect on my work. It seems that Ireland, although its official language is Irish, will ensure that English remains an EU language, and it is already so well established as the main working language for the Community, understood by the maximum number of people, that this seems unlikely to change. Can anyone imagine, for example, the French or the Germans agreeing that all official documents shold be drawn up in the other’s language? Trade in both directions will also doubtless continue, although it will probably be reduced. In less official circles, too, the position of English as a lingua franca of tourism, for example, is unlikely to be threatened. Although travel to and from the UK could become more difficult, it hardly seems likely that the inhabitants of even a more isolated Britain will stop visiting the continent. Other translators in different specialist areas may be much worse affected, of course, and they have my every sympathy. To have your livelihood damaged by the whim of a perfidious electorate (unless, of course, you’re a politician, of course) is a cruel and undeserved blow.

Extract from Simon’s post “From Englishman to British-born European”, published on 5 July 2016

Claire Cox:

A month on, and I’m still desperately sad about the outcome of the vote. As a linguist, I feel very much a European and loved the freedom I enjoyed to work and study abroad and feel part of something bigger. Returning to an isolationist and NIMBYish outlook seems such a retrograde step. The immediate shock has calmed down, of course, despite the incredible political shenanigans since the last days of June. Yes, my share portfolio plummeted in the first instance, although I noticed today that it has recovered half of its losses in the meantime, and those of us paid in euros into a British bank account will be receiving rather more than before the referendum due to the falling pound – although I’d much rather the result had gone the other way! For the time being, at least, we are still part of the EU; our new prime minister has yet to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and life goes on much as it did before. I did wonder whether there would be a change in workload in the immediate aftermath of the vote, but if anything I seem to have been busier than ever, turning lots of work down and receiving a constant stream of enquiries, even in the often quieter midsummer holiday period.

How things will pan out in future is anyone’s guess; many of my colleagues are EU nationals who have made their home in Britain and their future now seems uncertain despite government assurances. It will be such a shame if future language students are unable to partake of the Erasmus scheme and study/work abroad as freely as I and my son after me have been able to. Equally, although it seems likely that English will remain the official language of the EU even after our ignominious departure, since it is also the language of Ireland and Malta, it may not be as easy for British nationals to work in or for the EU Translations Directorate – another great loss. It’s certainly going to be a challenging few years, but for the time being, I think we can only carry on as we did before, making sure our client order books are as diverse as possible so that any changes that do come about don’t leave us bereft. Definitely a time for spreading your eggs across lots of different baskets….

Extract from Claire’s post “A change is as good as a rest”, published on 28 July 2016