Entry 48

The British Council, the UK’s official cultural promoter overseas, reports that a third of English schools

show a drop in interest in studying foreign languages following the Brexit vote.

The figures come form a survey of nearly 1,500 primary and secondary schools and show a decline

in the study of languages over the past five years, 2013-18.

While there was no explicit reference to Brexit in the questionnaire, the exit referendum and

the associated public campaigning was in 2016, right in the middle of data collection for the survey.

It’s reasonable to assume that leaving the EU was on the minds of the pupils because of family talk and media coverage.

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Entry 47

Speaking in two tongues.

Language games that confuse or enlighten are a handy diplomatic tool.

When the UK leaves the EU, the remaining 27 states will still be able to use English for such verbal manoeuvres in official meetings and events. For a language to be used in official business, one of the member countries has to have it as its official language.

The EU may or may not want to thank Malta for this because that country has two official languages. Maltese (the semitic Malti) is its official national language and is ‘a co-official language’ alongside English.

What will the French reaction be?

Entry 46

Could Catalexit join Brexit and split EU?

Brexit has a new linguistic rival in matters of slogans about national splits. It is Catalexit. The term emerges (read here first) as we see the politics of both UK and Spain become more complicated with cross-hatching issues of territorial splits and sovereign control.

Some separatists in Barcelona want independence from Madrid and seek to join the EU. France said ‘no’. Scotland is to vote again in 2018 on independence from London and will seek to join the EU if there is a majority vote. Would Brussels welcome the Scots?

There are patterns of similarity and difference here. Scotland already has a devolved government separate from London while Catalonia has only a devolved administration from Madrid. If the Scots vote for independence, will France, EU stalwart and old medieval ally, speak up for them?

If Madrid withdraws devolution from Catalonia, will Brussels warn about threats to democratic values?

With the UK outside of the EU, would London regard supportive commentary from Brussels about Scottish independence as external interference in a sovereign nation? If Brussels supports Catalexit as local democracy in action, would Madrid berate the EU on grounds of external interference?

Will there be more Exits?

Entry 45

Brexit has a funny side.

Is there any humour in the Brexit/Remain debate? We need a little to lighten the mood around Europe’s longest running political and economic divorce.

There is and it circles around the Brexit word. The Brits have invented Bregret for regret about Brexit, and je ne Bregret rien when they feel happy days are coming. They also talk about a dog’s Brexit and a full English Brexit when they feel the divorce is getting messy or taking too long.

When the joking stops, they use two nouns Brexiter and Brexiteer for serious talk. Brexiter is used to describe someone who approaches Brexit clinically, while Brexiteer is for those who positively welcome the divorce with a knowing smile.

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is writing all of this down as they recognised Brexit as an English word in December 2016.

Entry 44

Britons favour hard Brexit, poll suggests.

Britons, whether having voted Remain or Leave in the 2016 EU referendum, are now united behind a full, clean cut Brexit, research from Oxford/LSE universities shows (August 2017). The poll of 3,000 indicates that 67% of the sample prefer no deal to any so-called ‘soft Brexit’, and 68% support a full Brexit over a watered down version put forward by some Remainers.

It implies that Leavers are united in strongly favouring a ‘hard Brexit’ because they are generally more likely to oppose any deal that involves continued freedom of movement of people, jurisdiction of the ECJ, and an expensive ‘divorce settlement’.

Overall, this means that taken together there are higher levels of support for outcomes that resemble the ‘hard Brexit’ position put forward by the government.

Entry 43

Brexit news is now a daily headline in the UK and will stay high volume until March 2019 when Britain leaves (maybe). But the headlines also cover their backs with the speculation that the county could still stay in the EU (maybe).

The Times invokes the Dunkirk spirit of surviving against the odds to report that ‘mainstream media’ think Brexit will be a success but the newspaper itself predicts that it will be a failure. It judges that Brexit looks increasingly less like Dunkirk and more like the charge of the Light Brigade (a British military disaster in Crimea): a combination of miscommunication and tactical errors turned into disaster.

There is also speculation that Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn could play a spoiler role. He currently (August 2017) talks as a Brexiteer as he zig-zags between In and Out but if the polls move towards staying In, he could back the call for another referendum. The poll that he is watching most closely is British working class opinion, the base vote of his party. Maybe.

Entry 42

The long battle in the UK over Brexit goes on and on. It’s now near the top of most news bulletins and broadcasts. Brexit has become part of Britain’s psychological wallpaper and is stared at but not read. And if you do read wallpaper, the words are about negotiating tactics and personalities. Even for committed Brexiteers, interest falters.

The most likely event to wake Brits up would be the fall of the Theresa May government on an unrelated issue. An issue such as more austerity cuts in public spending or a crisis in NHS budgets.

Pundits are saying that the dangerous time for the Prime Minister will be next spring when austerity is turning more and more Britons sour about falling standards of living. When that happens, all the writing on the wall will be read every hour of every day: people will be asking how Brexit relates to more or less poverty for them.

Entry 41

Raised voices as divorce looms

Brexit talks between London and Brussels are showing the stress and strain of divorce: the talking is getting heated and insulting.

Who gets what out of the split is moving up the agenda, with Mr Juncker, EU commission president, saying (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-39770328)

there will be no deal on access to EU markets ‘if the UK failed to pay the “divorce” bill.’

To scare London more, the divorce would be ‘very complex’ because London was not leaving a ‘golf club’. And to put the boot hard into London’s softer regions, he added that Brexit ‘cannot be a success. The more I hear, the more sceptical I become’.

Entry 40

The UK government’s difficulties over negotiating a good Brexit mount with a threat by Nicola Sturgeon, head of the Scotland devolved government, to hold a second referendum in autumn 2018 on her country leaving the UK.

She said that would be a “common sense” time for a second independence referendum on leaving the UK. She lost the first referendum in 2014.

Her timing co-cincided with a poll of polls (Feb 2017) showing just a one per cent lead of British leavers over remainers, well within a statistical margin of error. Her call comes at the same time as UK Prime Minister May’s start of the official Article 50 talks about Brexit with Brussels in March 2017.

This means that Sturgeon’s ‘common sense’ amounts to a second front against the London UK government. She is saying that every Brexit move by May re-opens the Scottish independence debate.

Politics is the practice of hard choices. Does Theresa May win a Brexit from Brussels to lose a United Kingdom north of the border with Scotland?

Historical background: England and Scotland united into one kingdom in 1603.

Entry 39

How would you feel if the agent selling your dilapidated, ruinously expensive second home pulled out days before you were rid of the expense?

‘Gobsmacked’ is a blunt Anglo-Saxon way of describing your feelings. That naughty rude word probably summed up Prime Minister Theresa May’s private feelings about the resignation of Sir Ivan Rogers, her chief Brexit fixer, weeks before talks to withdraw began . In UK government public speak, the words she would use are ‘disappointing’, ‘a little surprised’, ‘a minor distraction’ and ‘an opportunity to sharpen our case’.

Within two days (January 5), however, Prime Minister May had a new Brexit fixer. He was Sir Tim Barrow, a diplomat who was once British Ambassador to Russia. That is the sort of background likely to re-assure May that Brexit negotiations are in safe and hardened hands. The speed of his appearance is a sure sign that negotiating Brexit is the most important matter to have faced Britain in the last forty years.

It’s becoming clear that Britain’s negotiating position is a trade off between closing borders to immigrants to a degree unstated; getting UK tariff–free access to EU markets and offering the same access to Britain’s large domestic market.

Playing those three balls in Brussels at the same time is helped by having played ball with President Putin in Moscow.