Brexit needs languages! S2F statement

19 Oct 2016

A message from Bernardette Holmes, Campaign Director, Speak to the Future, responding to the publication of Languages & Brexit by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages:


Speak to the Future, the national campaign for languages, fully backs MPs and Peers in their current push for language skills, launched 17 October 2016 by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Modern Languages.

As the UK prepares to speak to a global future post-Brexit, we need even more, and better, language skills and a deeper understanding of cultural diversity.  Now, more than ever, the UK must give priority to strengthening its language capability.  We must value all languages spoken within our communities and provide high quality languages education and training for all.

To achieve this goal we must boost the supply chain of languages skills between school-leavers, apprentices and graduates, welcoming and safeguarding global talent in the labour market from both EU and non-EU countries, protecting and promoting international experience through Erasmus + and other initiatives, such as the British Council Language Assistants programme.

Strategic action to promote language skills is urgent.  

The APPG MFL’s Brexit and Languages checklist sets out four clear language-specific objectives which Government negotiators and officials should take into account during the Brexit process:

1. Guaranteeing residency status for EU nationals already living in the UK and safeguarding future recruitment of EU citizens to address the shortage of language skills
2. Continuing full UK participation in the Erasmus+ programme (noting the examples of Norway and Switzerland)
3. Committing to legislate to replicate the rights enshrined in the 2010 European Directive on the Right to Interpretation and Translation in Criminal Proceedings
4. A post-Brexit plan in education (from primary school to post-graduate research, including apprenticeships), business and the civil service, with specific actions to ensure the UK produces sufficient linguists to meet its future requirements as a leader in global free trade and on the international stage

Speak to the Future fully endorses these priorities.

Bernardette Holmes MBE, Campaign Director for Speak to the Future, said:

“Brexit means higher priority for language skills. If we found it challenging to deal with the 24 official and working languages of the EU and the Single Market, let’s consider that there are 164 members of the World Trade Organisation.  Each potential trading partner and regulator will be requiring precise negotiations. New relationships require trust, reliability and cultural empathy – those soft skills that come from knowledge of other languages and cultures.  The APPG MFL Languages and Brexit Checklist highlights the risks and the opportunities which will face us once Article 50 is triggered in March 2017.  We fully support the APPG MFL in its call for a post-Brexit plan for languages in education, training and public life.”


Note to editors:

Speak to the future – the campaign for languages – is highlighting the importance of languages, language learning and professional language activities for the UK. Targeting the public, media, government and policymakers, it aims to push languages up the agenda, and to bring about a step-change in attitudes and policy towards the value of all our languages. The Speak to the Future website is:

Speak to the Future was launched in 2012 with funding from the British Academy and support from a range of language and educational partners:

The Campaign Director is Bernardette Holmes MBE. Bernardette is widely known across the country for her role in policy and pedagogic developments and for innovation in language learning, curriculum development and in her role as language and policy adviser.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Bernardette Holmes MBE, Campaign Director


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