Impact of Brexit on the LSP Market

‘A vote to leave is the gamble of the century. And it would be our children’s futures on the table if we were to roll the dice.’

           -David Cameron (former British Prime Minister)

The vote has been cast, the dice has been rolled, and the Pandora’s Box has opened up for everyone to see. Brexit – an abbreviation for ‘British exit’ – is now a reality. However, whether ‘the gamble of the century’ pays off in the long run or not, that only time will tell.

The British citizens voted in a referendum on June 23, 2016, the results of which led to Britain exiting from the European Union (EU), a politico-economic union of 28 member states that covers much of the European continent. Since there are always two sides to a coin, the idea of Brexit also has both convincing advocates who espouse the cause as well as vociferous detractors who vehemently oppose the idea. Let’s have a cursory look at the opinions of both sides.

Why ‘Leave’ will work

  1. An independent, competitive economy with more jobs and higher wages.
  2. Lower inflation rates, less expensive food, flexible trade regulations.
  3. Tax reductions as a result of not contributing to the EU, hence thriving businesses.

Why ‘Remain’ would have worked

  1. Being part of EU meant zero tariffs on exports and imports between member states.
  2. Free trade agreements with non-European countries.
  3. Certainty in many spheres: economic growth, military funding, inflation and the like.

Brexit and the UK Language Industry

  1. Close to 100 different languages are spoken in the UK.
  2. Within the EU alone, there are 23 officially recognized languages.
  3. Though English is predominantly spoken, almost 1 in 5 people in London speak a language which is not English.
  4. Results of the 2011 census showed that almost four million people residing in Wales and England did not speak English as their main language of communication.

As a result of globalization, the language service provider (LSP) industry is growing by leaps and bounds all over the world and the UK is no exception. A survey carried out among Britain’s leading LSPs, specifically known as the Association of Translation Companies (ATC), before the Brexit referendum took place, concluded that up to 90 per cent of the members wished to remain in the EU. Why? They were under the impression that their dealing with EU-based firms would be undermined as a result of Brexit. For instance, a majority of the LSPs had a major portion of their revenue being generated from consumers based in other member EU countries.

Since the different member states of the EU follow a common, closely-knit policy on trade, the LSP market is a force to reckon within the region. Hence, the relationship between trading and language translation services is akin to a symbiotic one, where one cannot do without the other.

Impact of Brexit on UK Language Services

  1. According to ATC Chair, Roy Allkin: ‘Research has already shown that poor language skills are costing the UK economy 48 billion pounds a year in lost export sales. An exit from the EU would mean that the livelihoods of more than 12000 people, who rely on language service provider companies, would be put at risk.’ With regard to the language service industry, Brexit does not seem to make good business sense since the industry is a strong controlling factor for the country’s trade and exports.
  2. The importance of learning English as a prerequisite of working in the market will take a beating. Brexit means citizens of other EU member states would no longer have the spontaneous option of taking up a job in the UK, as they had earlier. Hence, English learning would take a backseat.
  3. Simultaneously, as British exports and trade to EU nations would take a hit as a result of no free trade agreements, the stimulus for companies in the UK to obtain new language skills would lessen.

Impact of Brexit on Asian and Indian LSP Markets

  1. For Indian and a majority of the Asian companies to do business with Europe, going through the UK as a via media has generally been the norm, thanks to the ease of doing business. Now with Brexit in place, companies looking to set up their operations anywhere in the European subcontinent would not necessarily need to learn the local language as a means to gain entry into the market, since the same can effortlessly be done, say, sitting in London itself.
  2. Since India is a developing country and an emerging economy, there is a distinct possibility that the new UK after Brexit would be interested in investing in countries like ours. With subsequent emigration and immigration rules coming into play, the UK would probably require an English-speaking workforce to fill up its ranks, thus proving beneficial to India.
  3. As a result of Brexit, Britain would be interacting more with other non-EU countries in order to draw up new trade agreements, licenses and certification as well as judicial documents in various sectors. This would mean a host of new opportunities opening up for the large number of experienced linguists working in the field of corporate translation services as well as language localization specialists in India that cater to the UK’s translation demands.
  4. English, presently the dominating language of the UK and the lingua franca of trade, commerce and education, might just lose its position from the list of the EU’s official languages because Britain was the only country in the 28-member union which listed English as its official language. With Britain out of the EU, English could soon meet the same fate. Speculation is rife that French might take its place, leading to an increase in the demand for quality translation services in the new language.

In Conclusion

Whether we like it or not, Brexit is a reality and is here to stay. The fact of the matter is that even after Brexit, UK will need to deal with business and trade across international borders, perhaps even more so and with newer countries than before. The ability to communicate effectively is the backbone to each and every business, domestic or international. And thus, the need of the hour for the translation services that wish to flourish is to make sure they remain culturally and linguistically informed in more ways than one.

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