Danuta Hübner, the head of the European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO), warned Monday that English will not be one of the European Union’s official languages after Britain leaves the EU.
English is one of the EU’s 24 official languages because the U.K. identified it as its own official language, Hübner said. But as soon as Britain completes the process to leave the EU, English could lose its status.
“We have a regulation … where every EU country has the right to notify one official language,” Hübner said. “The Irish have notified Gaelic, and the Maltese have notified Maltese, so you have only the U.K. notifying English.”
“If we don’t have the U.K., we don’t have English,” Hübner said.
English is one of the working languages in the European institutions, Hübner said, adding: “It’s actually the dominating language,” the one most frequently used by EU civil servants.
The regulation listing official languages of the EU would have to be changed unanimously by remaining countries if they want to keep English as an official language, Hübner said.
However, an EU source explained that the regulations governing official languages are themselves subject to more than one translation. The 1958 regulation regarding the official languages of the EU, which was originally written in French, does not say clearly whether a member country – Ireland or Malta for instance — can have more than one official language, an EU source said. Interpretations of the French wording tend to conclude that this might be possible, whereas the English version appears to rule this out.