Politics

Widdecombe mocks EU over bid to force bloc’s train drivers to speak English

Ann Widdecombe shares her views on Windsor Brexit Framework

Brexiteer and former Tory minister Ann Widdecombe is among those who have poked fun at Brussels over reports Europe’s train drivers are to be required to speak English in accordance with a bloc-wide directive. Rules set to be unveiled in the autumn as part of the EU’s Train Drivers’ Directive are likely to impose a single common language to ensure closer ties between the EU27.

Insiders earlier this week told The Daily Telegraph English would be the language of choice – despite the fact that just one country, Ireland, has it as one of its official language, after Britain quit in 2020.

Ms Widdecombe, who served as a Brexit Party MEP alongside Nigel Farage in 2019, told Express.co.uk: “Hee! Hee!

“It is wonderfully ironic but English is the lingua Franca of a vast chunk of the globe so it makes sense.”

Ben Habib, another former Brexit Party MEP, added: “It is indeed ironic the EU has chosen English as the language of choice for its train drivers. Ironic but not surprising.

“The depth and breadth of our sway across the world over hundreds of years has yet wane.

“Our weak political leaders did not have the confidence properly to deliver Brexit and the EU wanted to punish us for it.

“But there’s no getting away from Britain being Great.”

Tory MP David Jones, a member of the European Research Group, who was actually in Brussels himself yesterday, was wryly amused by the news.

He told Express.co.uk: “This demonstrates what a useful language English is.

“The EU itself uses English as the language of international communication.

“Notices in the EU Parliament are predominantly in English, a recognition of its huge importance.”

Unlike the UK, many EU countries have retained state-controlled rail operations until comparatively recently.

EU Commission’s Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE) has pledged to publish a definite proposal for amendments to the Train Drivers’ Directive (2007/59/EC) including reform of the “cross-border language regime”.

Speaking earlier this month, Dr Erich Forster, President of ALLRAIL, the European non-profit association of independent passenger rail companies, said: “A single language would harmonise conditions between rail and other sectors, and achieve a level playing field.

“As long as this does not happen, then there will never really be a Single European Railway Area with One Europe and One Railway.”

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Dr Forster did not, however, specify which language should be the common one.

The plans are in sharp contrast with remarks by former President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker in 2017, a year after Brexit, when he declared: “Slowly but surely English is losing importance in Europe.”

Mr Juncker’s claim was dismissed by Mark Littlewood, director-general of the Institute for Economic Affairs, speaking in 2020, who said: “It might diminish in terms of the number of translators you have sitting in the EU bureaucracy but that’s a rather different point to the one Jean-Claude Juncker might be making.

“In terms of getting real business done around real negotiating tables I think English is going to become a more important and more common language.

“In fact you can probably get by only speaking English and that might not have been the case 30 or 40 years ago.

“Those trends are our friends.”

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