Ultimate language threat

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The news these days, I find, seldom merits a smile. But at one news story I heard at lunchtime today I actually laughed out loud, alone in my kitchen. Michel Barnier, charged with heading the EU side in the complex forthcoming negotiations that will set the terms for the UK's exit from the European Union, has found a way to hurt the British more deeply, and put them more at a disadvantage, than I ever would have thought possible. It is so fiendish it ought to be illegal, yet it violates no law or basic principle of human rights. It is simply wonderful in its passive-aggressive hostility. I take my hat off to him. He has announced that he wants all the negotiations with the British team to be conducted in French.

However, spoilsport Paul Foord has pointed me to Barnier's Twitter feed, where the man himself, writing in English, denies even expressing a view on language preference, and stresses that the linguistic medium for the future talks will be agreed between the participants. "Work as often in EN as FR," he says. "Linguistic regime to be set at start–to be agreed btw negotiators."

So that's killed that little moment of laughter. Thanks for nuthin', Paul. My pleasure lasted for slightly more than 70 minutes.

The Financial Times discusses the politics of the (spurious) linguistic threat in serious mode in this article.

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