My response to a letter I received from Russell Blair
Mr Blair invited me to publicise his ideas, which I am happy to do – http://www.identitybilingualism.com
Thank you for your letter of February 28th, with attachments, which has just come to my attention. I have to be frank and tell you that I simply haven’t the time to read all 34 pages in detail, but I have flicked through and at least glanced at every page. And the extraordinary thing is that having done so, I can’t find any coherent explanation of what your phrase “Identity Bilingualism” actually means.
Clearly if I don’t know what your policy proposal is, it is difficult for me to give you a coherent reply. But I can offer some general observations.
First, it may be true that EU Citizens need something concrete and uplifting at this time – something that the EU project has signally failed to deliver. But given that the UK is now set to leave the sinking ship, I think that this is a matter for the residual EU citizens, and for Brussels, not for me. We in Britain have Brexit, which I find enormously concrete and uplifting. You add that your objective is “Making Europeans”. But in the aftermath of Brexit, it seems to me that the task is un-making Europeans.
Secondly, I think you will find that language and identity are deeply ingrained, and attempts at a political level to impose or promote language policies tend to be at best unsuccessful, and at worst oppressive. Some people have an aptitude for languages and are keen to learn. Good luck to them. Others have less interest and resent being bulldozed.
Thirdly, there is a de facto common European language. It’s called English, and I have every confidence that this will remain so after Brexit. During my first five-year term in the parliament (1999/2004) all the display screens in the parliament were in French. We had séances and réunions. It took me a while to notice, but soon after the 2004 elections I realised that it had all changed. We has sittings and meetings. English was taking over. Rather than regretting our poor showing at foreign languages, we Brits should celebrate and exploit the fact that we have the world’s language.
A final observation: I have always treasured John Stuart Mill’s aperçu that “Where people lack fellow feeling, and especially where they speak and read different languages, the common public opinion necessary for representative government, cannot exist”. This is possibly the best argument for Brexit.
ROGER HELMER MEP