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What next for the UK language industry post Brexit?

For the overwhelming majority of the UK language industry leaders the outcome of the referendum vote has been utter bewilderment and disappointment.

Many of us are feeling shame that such a decision should have been taken by the electorate. But, as they say, we are where we are and the UK’s £1 billion language industry is now taking stock and thinking about what next for the sector.

Those on the ‘Leave’ side of the argument branded the warnings from the ‘Remainers’ as “project fear“, but, as the Pound tumbles in value and the leaders of the European institutions start pressing for the stopwatch on the UK’s exit to begin sooner, rather than later, the sound of turkeys coming home to roost is deafening.

During the long referendum debate there was one televised set piece with leading Outer Michael Gove MP, when a Nottingham-base Language Service Provider (LSP) told him that an exit would result in additional bureaucracy to get paid for her work by her EU customers.  At last week’s Association of Translation Companies’ Annual General Meeting, one leading member said that she anticipated any work from framework agreements with EU institutions would start to dry up and impact her business and the rest of the UK sector delivering language services in this space. Both LSP owners accurately reflected the ATC member survey published in April, which asked members what they expected if the UK left the European Union.

With one of the largest EU economies heading for the exit door, others have questioned whether English will remain one of the EU’s official languages.

Currently, an upside of the referendum decision, if it can be called an upside, is the falling Pound. That could be making UK language services more competitive not only in Europe, but globally too.

Another upside could be that UK-based LSPs might face less competition from their European competitors, since future mega-sized public sector tenders will, presumably, no longer need to be advertised in the Official Journal of the European Union.

However, I feel I am clutching at straws when seeking out any positives, from what can only be described as a seismic and disasterous shift in UK politics.

I feel certain that this issue will be uppermost in people’s minds when delegates from all over the world arrive in London for the ATC’s 2016 Language Industry Summit on 22/23 September.

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