Which one is more numerous in the EU (minus the UK)? native English speakers or native French speakers ?

After Brexit, what will be the main language of the EU? Would it be one? Or more than one?

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    The 3 languages in EU are french, german and english. That will not change.
    – Gautier C
    Jun 28, 2016 at 12:20
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    user 1, I have edited your question to make its meaning clearer. If you are not happy with the edit you can change it back. Jun 28, 2016 at 13:21
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    The focus on the "native speakers" is obviously tendentious and misleading. English will continue to be the #1 language in the EU even if the U.K. leaves because it has a clear hegemony among the non-native speakers - it is the actual lingua franca of the contemporary Western world, and arguably mostly thanks to the influence of the U.S., and not U.K., in the recent 100 years. There's no realistic way how French, German, or Spanish etc. could replace English as the most natural language used by people from random 2 places of the EU. Jun 28, 2016 at 13:49
  • 1
    This is assuming Brexit happens and Frexit does not.
    – Golden Cuy
    Jun 29, 2016 at 3:28
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    @AndrewGrimm I think Frexit is still extremely unlikely but if it would happen it would not be called Frexit, it would be called the end of the EU.
    – Relaxed
    Jun 29, 2016 at 9:06

1 Answer 1


Once the UK has left there will be far more native French speakers than native English speakers in the European Union.

According to Wikipedia, French is spoken by 12% of the EU population, with the vast majority of those located in France itself (population 66.1 million) and the French-speaking parts of Belgium (around 3.5 million in Wallonia plus around 1.1 million in Brussels).

In the absence of the UK, Ireland (population 4.6 million) will be far the biggest majority English-speaking country or territory in the EU. Most people in Malta and Gibraltar are bilingual with English as one of the languages. English is also widely spoken as a close-to-bilingual second language in Cyprus.

Interestingly, once the UK goes there will be no countries in the EU which have notified the EU that English is their official language. Ireland's official language for EU purposes is Irish Gaelic and Malta's is Maltese.

According to the EU Observer, English is at risk as an official EU language

A senior MEP has said English would be dropped as an EU official language once the UK leaves the bloc, unless rules are changed. "If we don't have the UK, we don't have English," Polish centre-right MEP Danuta Huebner told reporters in Brussels on Monday (27 June).

Huebner chairs the European Parliament's committee on constitutional affairs (AFCO). The committee oversees the parliament's role on the UK's exit from the European Union. Speaking in English, Huebner said EU rules allow member state to notify only one official language each, not two or more.

However, note the words "unless rules are changed". I do not think that many Irish MEPs or officials would find it easy to make speeches in Irish. English is the second language spoken by most people in all but five European Union countries. So it is not surprising to read that:

Huebner said she was confident all remaining EU states would endorse the rule change to accommodate English, which is also the main working language among the EU institutions.

(Fun fact: English is not the official language of England. The UK as a whole does not have an official language, though I think that the devolved Scottish and Welsh governments have made statements that recognize English plus Scots Gaelic and Welsh respectively as joint official languages.)

  • 2
    As you note as the end English is widely used as a working language (although French has an important role, e.g. at the Court), it's not going anywhere, the rest is just empty talk.
    – Relaxed
    Jun 28, 2016 at 16:12

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