‘French don’t care about Ireland’ Ex-diplomat’s warning after MEP refuses to speak English

Whittingdale: English language won't lose relevance after Brexit

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Ray Bassett, Ireland’s former ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, was speaking after a spat during between French MEPs Karima Delli and Julie Lechanteaux during a virtual parliamentary session. Mrs Lechanteaux, a member of the right-wing National Rally party, was given two minutes to speak by Green MEP Mrs Delli, who was chairing the meeting.

However, Mrs Delli stopped Mrs Lechanteaux when she began talking in French, asking her to switch to English, explaining there were no translators available.

Mrs Lechanteaux refused, explaining: “Especially since we no longer have the UK here, so we no longer have anyone who speaks English.”

Mr Bassett’s recent book, Ireland and the EU Post Brexit, warns of an increasing tendency to downplay the importance of English as a language spoken and understood by many MEPs.

He told Express.co.uk: “I predicted that the French would push to downgrade English in EU institutions post-Brexit.

“However it will be difficult because English is the second language in most EU countries.”

Referring to his country’s 13 members of the assembly, he added: “Irish MEPs are not known for their multilingual skills.

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“They will be concerned about any reduction in English.”

In his book, Mr Bassett highlighted a claim by former European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in 2017 that “losing importance in the EU”.

He said: “As I said in the book the Irish would sorely miss the British presence after Brexit.”

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The EU post-Brexit is proving to be a cold house for the Irish

Ray Bassett

In respect of the exchange between Mrs Delli and Mrs Lechanteaux, Mr Bassett, an advocate of a so-called Irexit, added: “It shows how little importance the French place in Ireland.

“We have been useful to the EU during Brexit but now there is no need to consider our interests.

“The EU post-Brexit is proving to be a cold house for the Irish.”

Speaking to Express.co.uk in August, Mark Littlewood, director-general of the Institute for Economic Affairs, told Express.co.uk English will only become more important in the years to come.

He explained: “English is increasingly the global language of commerce.

“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.”

As for the rest of the world, Mr Littlewood added: “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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