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French EU rep quits meeting over English-only plan

media Britain's Union flag alongside EU flags at the Eropean Union headquarters in Brussels JOHN THYS / AFP

France's ambassador to the European Union stormed out of a meeting on Wednesday over plans to axe interpreters from some proceedings, which would almost certainly mean conducting them entirely in English. Ironically enough, the meetings concerned are to discuss the EU's budget after Brexit.

As the EU prepares to say goodbye to the country where the English language was born, officials proposed to hold experts' meetings on the budget without translation, ie in the language of Shakespeare.

Although French and German are working languages in Brussels alongside English, it is the latter - or a version of it - that is increasingly the bureaucrats' and politicians' lingua franca and it is almost invariably used in the absence of interpreters.

That annoys French EU ambassador Philippe Léglise-Costa so much that he upped and left a meeting of ambassadors from all 28 EU countries.

A French diplomatic source told the AFP news agency that Léglise-Costa's action was a protest against "methods that must be rejected" and a defence of multilingualism.

European Council sources said there had been a misunderstanding and that officials believed that France had accepted the idea at a previous meeting.

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