The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has claimed a “narrow path” has opened up for the UK and EU to strike a post-Brexit trade deal. The German EU chief said the “next few days are going to be decisive” and that talks over enforcing a deal are “largely being resolved”. However, she noted fishing is an area that remains “difficult”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson also told MPs there was “every opportunity” to reach a deal.
Meanwhile, officials from both sides are continuing talks in Brussels, as they race to strike a deal before the UK’s post-Brexit transition period ends on December 31.
Despite weeks of intensive talks, they have remained stuck over fishing rights and the so-called “level playing field”.
As tensions rise and the clock ticks down, it has emerged that the bloc has been trying to diminish the English language ever since the 2016 EU referendum.
In May 2017, former European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker told a conference in Italy on the EU that “English is losing importance in Europe”.
Amid tensions with the UK over looming Brexit negotiations, he said he was delivering his speech in French.
Explaining his choice of language, he said: “Slowly but surely English is losing importance in Europe and also because France has an election.”
He also called the UK decision to leave the EU “a tragedy”.
Laughter and applause greeted his comment about the English language, and he could be seen smiling wryly.
He made a further dig at the UK in 2018, when he bucked the trend of other world leaders in attendance at the central and Eastern European Three Seas Initiative Forum and delivered a speech in France.
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Mr Juncker said: “English is not the only official language of the European Union.
“French is a big, great, influential language and culture in the European Union and we should not forget that we are not under the rule of the only lingua franca, which is English.”
That same year French President Emmanuel Macron praised French as a “language of Freedom”, and announced a multi-million euros plan to oust English.
Mr Macron said: “English has probably never been as present in Brussels at the time when we are talking about Brexit.
“This domination is not inevitable.
“It’s up to us to set some rules, to be present, and make French the language with which one has access to a number of opportunities.”
Mr Macron’s plan was dashed earlier this year, though, as Brussels announced they would be sticking to using English – even after Brexit.
Chief Spokesperson Eric Mamer said in February: “It is clear that Brexit will not affect the language system.”
At present, texts for the EU Commission are presented in three working languages: English, French and German.
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Mark Littlewood, director-general of the Institute for Economic Affairs, told Express.co.uk English would only become more important in the years to come.
He said: “English is increasingly the global language of commerce.
“That irritates the European Union somewhat and it certainly irritates the French.
“The European Union has got an interesting question facing it.
“Does it remain largely bilingual, despite the fact that the only native English speakers will be the very small Republic of Ireland?
“Or does it sort of put two fingers up to the English-speaking world and say ‘no we’re going to do everything in French?’
“I think what they do is very introspective and inward-looking.”
Looking further afield, Mr Littlewood said: “The use of the English language in other parts of the world is growing all the time – in India for example.
“We have the enormous benefit, the Americans and ourselves, of speaking the same language.
“So I don’t think that English is going to diminish as the global language of commerce.”