Government must plan to avoid post-Brexit language crisis, MPs say

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Modern Languages has published a report calling on the government to plan now to avoid a post-Brexit languages crisis.

The group maintained that while there was already a language skills shortage the UK was still able to rely on other EU nationals ‘to pug the gap’. However, the group has said that a lack of language ability loses the UK an estimated 3.5 per cent of economic performance.

Baroness Coussins, co-chair of the APPG, said: "Brexit must make the UK's language skills a top policy issue. Language skills are vital for our exports, education, public services and diplomacy."

Cousins called for ‘a national plan to ensure the UK produces the linguists we need to become a world leader in global free trade and on the international stage.’

The group has launched a checklist on Brexit and languages which calls on the government to: guarantee residency status for EU nationals already living in the UK; continue full participation in Erasmus+ ; and set up a national plan to boost language education from primary school through to post-graduate level.

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, added: “It is essential that schools continue to be able to recruit EU nationals post-Brexit. There is already a critical shortage of language teachers and the last thing that we need is anything which makes this situation worse.

"We understand that Brexit means Brexit but it is vital that it does not also mean a full-blown crisis in language teaching.”

And Mark Herbert, head of schools programmes at the British Council, said: "Learning a language isn't just a rewarding way to connect with another culture but boosts individual job prospects, as well as business and trade opportunities for the UK."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said government policies meant the number of students taking one language at GCSE was up from 40 per cent in 2010 to 49 per cent this year.

The spokeswoman added: "The UK's future access to the Erasmus+ programme will be part of wider discussions with the EU.

"Existing higher education UK students studying in the EU will continue to be subject to current arrangements."