Brexit and the translating industry – a personal view

Sat, 10/01/2016 - 08:36 Erika Baker

There will most probably be many posts on the impact of Brexit on the translation industry from me in the coming years. Today, I just want to offer my own, completely personal and anecdotal comments based on my own experience.

1. Before the referendum.

Almost as soon as the referendum was announced in February this year, my orders from some groups of regular clients dropped off. Small companies who are selling their products online through Amazon and eBay no longer expanded their product catalogue. They told me they would wait until after the referendum when they could be certain of the framework conditions for trade again. The assumption clearly was that Britain would vote Remain and that all that was needed was for investments to be postponed for a few months.

2. Immediately after the referendum

In the first few weeks after the referendum my Amazon and eBay clients dropped off completely.  Enquiries for certified translations of birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce certificates and police clearance certificates increased.  Private individuals were getting their paperwork ready to return home to the UK or to the EU country they came from. There was an increase in translations of job references and CVs. Translations of website texts, product information and marketing texts decreased. Enquiries for the translation of existing contracts, especially termination clauses etc. increased.

3. Three months after the referendum

“Brexit means Brexit” and it takes a long time to get started. Some of the immediate uncertainty has been replaced by hope that things will get so bad that Leave voters will demand a second referendum and decide to remain in the EU after all. Either that, or that the government will opt for a “soft Brexit” that still gives companies full access to the single market. With every warning from big companies and governments that they “may relocate to another EU country”, this hope appears to increase. The outcome is that, for now, my order portfolio is almost back to what it was before February. The market seems to be less jittery and one of my Amazon/eBay clients has started to add to their product portfolio again. Enquiries for certified translations have dropped to usual levels and have more to do with preparations for Weddings abroad than immediate panics about having to move countries. Employment contracts and websites have not recovered, as major investments are still on hold.

To be continued…. watch this space.