European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had a message for Britain on Tuesday. He delivered it in French.The EU overlords may not like it but free market globalism largely is conducted in English, though I would have no problem watching a good batalla between Germany and France over what should be the official language of totalitarian Europe.
With the impending British exit from the European Union, the polyglot Babel that has 24 official languages may soon strike English off the list, according to officials here, who note the change with a mixture of sadness and glee.
The European Union long conducted its business in French, even for decades after Britain and Ireland joined the bloc in 1973. But as the alliance expanded into Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, the momentum moved ineluctably toward English, the second language of choice for a far wider number of European citizens, diplomats and leaders. English is the common tongue at summits such as the one taking place Tuesday, with the leaders of E.U. member nations descending on Brussels for a grim, English-speaking dinner with British Prime Minister David Cameron.
But if Britain pulls out, the European Union will lose the only nation that has designated English as its official language inside E.U. institutions. Each country is allowed to pick one tongue, and Ireland and Malta — the other two E.U. nations that are predominantly English-speaking — chose Gaelic and Maltese, respectively. But they are tiny compared with the juggernauts of France and Germany, which supply the other two “unofficial” working languages of the European Union.