On June 23rd 2016, the British public cast its vote on whether the UK should leave or stay in the European Union. As we know, 52% of voters opted to leave. Over three years later, it looks like the Brexit negotiations are finally coming to an end. Whether there will be a successful or hard Brexit, it seems to be inevitable. Either way, LSPs in the UK are going to be affected.
(Probably) Bad for Business
If you have a business in the UK, Brexit is always going to affect you. How hard? It depends. If you are a small LSP and you sell more abroad than you buy from abroad, the weaker pound could actually make your business more competitive and profitable. The caveat of course being that your business would only be better off domestically. Most businesses, and especially language companies, operate across borders, so a more competitive and profitable scenario seems unlikely.
Moreover, if you are an LSP, chances are the majority of your workforce is not originally from the UK. If you rely on the services of translators and interpreters who charge in EUR or USD, you would be losing money because of the exchange rates. However, let’s say your linguists are paid in EUR from EUR client funds, then you are on the better end of the deal. So it all depends where the money is coming from. But aside from a weaker sterling, there are other problems on the horizon.
There may be a temporary spike in translation and interpreting jobs because of Brexit paperwork, but long-term, the amount of jobs in the UK is likely to decrease. Less international business typically means less translation and interpreting jobs. Also, a weaker pound means the translation charges in the UK would become lower. Lower rates means the talent is likely to go elsewhere.
Additionally, as a translator or interpreter, coming to work in the UK might lose its appeal since, aside from lower rates, there will be more red tape to cut through in order to be allowed to work there. You might think to just hire British translators and interpreters in that case, but you might be ignoring the fact that the majority of translators and interpreters in the UK are actually not British. Historically, the poor level of language education and skills in the UK has been compensated by access to a European with first-class language learning cultures. By taking away that access, language skills will be harder to come by in the UK.
Furthermore, Brexit might enable the further erosion of language education in the UK, which means native English speakers won’t be likely to save the day either. Even less so with political parties post-Brexit looking to drastically cut back on university translation programs. Consequently, providing quality language services in the UK will become increasingly harder, which means it will become increasingly difficult to grow your language business.
To sum up, if you are a language service provider in the UK, Brexit might actually briefly boost your business if you play your cards right. Realistically, however, the future of your business does not look promising if you are planning to remain in the UK while trying to be globally competitive.
What are your thoughts on Brexit? How do you think it will affect your business? Feel free to let us know!