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The impact of Brexit on localisation – and everything else

There are a lot of opinions and ongoing debates about the effect that Brexit will have on, well, everything. The vote by the citizens of the United Kingdom (UK) to leave the European Union (EU) has brought with it, above all else, a great amount of uncertainty. Many of the uncertainties floating about could, in some way, affect the language translation industry. We’ve put together a few summaries regarding the Brexit discussions currently happening.

Uncertainty in the Brexit aftermath

The English Language – will it stay or will it go now?

As an industry whose primary focus is language, it’s easy to see the link between Brexit and the localization and translation industry. There’s a rather heated debate going on right now about whether English will be booted from the list of official EU languages, despite being the most spoken in Europe.

“English is our official language because it has been notified by the UK. If we don’t have the UK, we don’t have English,” Danuta Hübner, chairwoman of the European Parliament’s constitutional affairs committee said – in English – at a Press conference on the legal consequences of the British referendum to leave the EU. Alternatively, Hübner suggested, rules could be changed to let countries have more than one official language. [1]

A statement on behalf of the European Commission Representation in Ireland interjects on the language issue, “We note the media reports stating that in the event of a UK withdrawal from the EU, English would cease to be an official language of the EU.  This is incorrect. The Council of Ministers, acting unanimously, decide on the rules governing the use of languages by the European institutions. In other words, any change to the EU Institutions’ language regime is subject to a unanimous vote of the Council, including Ireland.” [2]

English is the lingua franca of business and academia. In most countries it is the primary second language taught in schools and can be understood to some extent by one-third of the world’s population. English is crucial for anyone who wants to thrive on the global stage. And it’s the most popular pivot language in translations. [3]

So, while it seems unlikely English will be out, it will be a bit of a waiting game until opposing views can come to an agreement and final decisions have been made. We’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on this topic as it progresses and the effects of Brexit on the language translation industry.

Regulation – a new order? 

Obviously right now, so soon after the Brexit vote, all UK laws and regulations are the same as the EU. But over time, as more decisions are made, British laws and regulations will differ from those of the EU. The nature of those potential changes is not certain. And some companies, especially those in highly regulated sectors – Life Sciences for instance – don’t want to be caught in the crossfire while uncertainties are hashed out.

Differing regulations and laws will require different and likely more, translation needs. With Life Sciences being a dedicated focus for Sajan, we will be closely watching to keep up with any regulation changes in support of our partners.

Access to the European market: currency, commerce and trade

In brief, the financial market will change as the sterling has decreased in value, thus making the dollar and euro stronger.

Governor Mark Carney has already warned the UK’s economic outlook is “challenging” following the decision to leave the EU. And more consumers than not are expecting the general economic situation to worsen over the next year. [4]

This could inevitably have a trickle-down effect as consumers move to spend less discretionary monies, pushing sales down and lessening opportunities for global expansion. Additionally, exports (out of the UK) may rise while trade negotiations stall for traditional commerce.

John Lewis Managing Director Andy Street states, “At the moment this is a political crisis, it’s not an economic crisis. But one could turn into the other if not properly handled. We need to know the solution to terms of trade and want it done as soon as possible.” He notes that greater certainty is needed over Britain’s trade relationships and on the future of Europeans living and working in the country. [4]

With so much uncertainty in regards to the market, the effect Brexit will have on localization, and global expansion in particular, might actually be most visible outside of Europe. Many businesses have enacted plans already, with others in consideration, to move out of the UK due to fading trade connections with the EU.

Can you sense a theme here?

So… what can you be certain about?

While there are a lot of questions buzzing about following the Brexit vote we have no doubt that things will settle down with time. In the meantime however, if you were thinking of global expansion, now might be the time to explore the Asia-Pacific (APAC) market.

Markets in Asia are developing quickly with many of the population using mobile devices to perform business activities. In fact, China is predicted to jump ahead of the rest of the Asian countries by providing online purchases worth $1 trillion by 2019. Combined with the untapped population potential of 4.3 billion people living in the Asia-Pacific region, it’s a market worth investigating. [5]

Connect with us today to start a conversation about localizing to achieve global success! And be sure to sift through our many resources for more helpful information.


These Are the Upsides of Brexit For Global Businesses, David Everhart, June 27, 2016

Global Brexit Impact: Lost in Translation? BNY Mellon, March 2016

[1] English language could be dropped from European Union after Brexit, Danny Boyle, June 28, 2016

[2] EU languages: Statement on behalf of the European Commission Representation in Ireland, Article 342 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, June 28, 2016

[3] Top Ten Most Important Languages, Core Languages, August 23, 2014

[4] John Lewis warns over sterling slump, BBC News, July 8, 2016

[5] 4 Reasons Why You Should Expand Your Business in Asia Today,  Kayla Pomeran, September 24, 2015