Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Brannen

ONE of the questions I was often asked when I was endeavouring to be elected to the European Parliament was whether I spoke any European languages and if not was I willing to learn one? CSE Grade 2 German was the best I could muster all those years ago so on my successful election I took up French lessons. They have proved to be a bit tricky.

The two official languages of the Parliament are English and French but since the Eastern European countries joined the EU English has become the dominant language.

Even though I spend my working week in the largely French speaking EU capital Brussels, the reality is that trying to learn French when most people speak English is really rather difficult. You begin your sentence, "Je voudrais " only to have the person you are speaking to intuitively know that you are English and promptly finish your sentence for you. When a German member of the Parliament wants to talk to a Portuguese member, or a Swede to an Italian, they communicate in English. So you don't need to speak any other language than English.

This state of affairs is about to put Irish MEPs in a unique position, despite the fact that Ireland is one of the smallest of the member states with a population of only four and half million and less than 1% of the weighted vote in the European Council (the UK currently has 13%).

When the UK leaves the 11 Irish MEPs will find themselves in the communications driving seat in a parliament of 678 MEPs.

One of the most noticeable occurrences in the Parliament in recent weeks is the degree of agreement that exists amongst the remaining 27 member states.

If truth be told they don't normally agree on much and disputes are common on migrant quotas, the tension between creditor and debtor countries and the never ending arguments over closer union.

But when it comes to Brexit they are of one view and that agreement centres on their shared understanding that the UK outside of the EU cannot have a better deal than it had inside the Union.

Meanwhile, not a week goes by when I don't speak to someone who tells me of the downside of Brexit and often it's very personal. …

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