Europe is slowly coming to terms with the unexpected result of the referendum held in the UK. Although the actual Brexit is still well ahead of us, the international market has already reacted – the exchange rate of GBP has dropped, entrepreneurs from outside the Islands have started developing contingency plans, and the future of thousands of Poles in the United Kingdom is uncertain. Will this situation affect also the translation market?
It is a cliché to say that Brexit was the most topical issue for a few weeks. Although some time has passed since then, new questions continue to appear and there is still too much uncertainty to draw far-reaching conclusions, however, we can be certain that changes will occur in many areas, and as far as economy is concerned – they are bound to affect also the translation sector.
Brexit itself will generate thousands of documents – laws, commentaries, agreements and treaties which will need to be translated. Legal and economic texts will account for the overwhelming part of texts to be translated as the British and the EU Member States have to define new rules for cooperation and operating on the European market. It should also be remembered that we have to do with a precedent; hence many issues related to the exit of a Member State from the EU structures have not been regulated yet. Others will emerge only in the course of the actual Brexit process, which will be quite a challenge for translators who will have to monitor the situation on an ongoing basis and assimilate new knowledge.
What is one of the major issues for the translation sector is whether English will remain the official language of the European Union.
First of all, it should be mentioned that each EU state has the right to choose the language into which all documents will be translated for it. Each EU Member State chooses one national language, and although the United Kingdom is not the only EU country in which English is its official language, it was the only country which chose English as its official language. Ireland chose Irish while Malta chose Maltese.
Danuta Hübner, a Polish MEP, said – If we do not have the UK, we will not have English either. Even if depriving English of its status as the official language seems ridiculous, there is no doubt that this is possible. There is, however, another option – all Member States would have to agree to preserve English as the official language in the EU. Otherwise, all EU institutions would be no longer required to translate documents or interpret during meetings into this language, leaving hundreds of interpreters and translators doing this so far unemployed.
Those in favour of leaving the EU by the United Kingdom argued that this would be beneficial for its economy. Although it will take a few or a dozen or so years to find out whether this will really be so, the consequences for the translation industry can already be predicted.
Obviously, economic growth should have positive effects on the LSP market. The British hope to maintain trade agreements with the EU countries while enhancing economic relations with non-EU ones. This will mean more work for translators and interpreters of non-European languages. A quite opposite situation should also be taken into account – if the UK economy suffers from Brexit, this will also affect the translation industry. Turmoil on the UK market and a volatile pound may also cause an increase in prices of translation for agencies in the UK.
And what about Poles in the United Kingdom? Will they maintain their privileged status and will not be required to obtain visas or work permits?
If the UK authorities decide to restrict the influx of economic immigrants by introducing relevant procedures, certified translators will have a lot of work, as it is obvious that the demand for translating all sorts of documents and certificates necessary to get stay and work permits will increase.
Will London retain its status of one of the world’s financial centers? Will EU enterprises be still willing to invest on the British market? Will the UK trade balance with the EU countries increase? We have already declined the word Brexit by all cases, yet it is still difficult to find an answer to any of those questions. We can only hope that irrespectively of the direction the UK will choose after leaving the Union, the translation market will smoothly follow it and will adapt to the new conditions.