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Sunday 4 December 2016

English language will NOT be banned from EU after Brexit, despite claims

Meadhbh McGrath

Published 28/06/2016 | 14:53

A signpost in Timoleague, County Cork
A signpost in Timoleague, County Cork

The European Commission has rejected claims that English would be dropped as an official language in the EU following the Brexit referendum vote.

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On Monday, Polish MEP and chair of the European Parliament’s constitutional affairs committee Danuta Hubner said that English would be banned once Britain leaves the EU.

“English is our official language because it has been notified by the UK. If we don’t have the UK, we don’t have English,” Ms Hubner told a news conference on the legal consequences of the British referendum to leave the EU.

The claims led people to speculate on Twitter what the EU would be like without the English language - including how every piece of communication and legislation from Ireland would need to be translated into Irish. 

However, Independent.ie can confirm English will only cease to be used if every member state of the EU votes to scrap it.

Each member state has the right to nominate one primary language, and although English is in everyday use in both Ireland and Malta, it is not registered as the official language by either country.

There are 24 official languages in the EU. The first official language of Ireland is Irish, while Malta chose Maltese.

However, the European Commission Representation in Ireland has described Ms Hubner’s claim this week as “incorrect”.

A spokesperson told Independent.ie that English would only cease to be an official language of the EU if every member state voted to scrap it.

“The Council of Ministers, acting unanimously, decide on the rules governing the use of languages by the European institutions,” the spokesperson said.

“In other words, any change to the EU Institutions' language regime is subject to a unanimous vote of the Council, including Ireland.”

They added that the provisions are contained in Article 342 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

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