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There’s a lot of pre-Brexit negotiation going on and translating it can be a problem. Correct translations may not always be made, and the British press in particular loves a controversial headline. It makes you wonder if some of the recent headlines have been translated for effect, rather than as correct translations.

Recently, both the Daily Telegaph and the Daily Mail had some big headlines about behind-the-scenes Brexit news. Both translated some comments by Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel to show that she might be prepared to agree to one of Britain’s key Brexit demands – having limits on freedom of movement, while still having access to the single market.

The Telegraph said “In comments seen as a significant shift, the German Chancellor suggested that the European Union needs to ‘discuss further’ the rules around freedom of movement.”

The translation of Frau Merkel’s other statements, through, was missing: “the four fundamental freedoms, including the right to free movement, are the basis of the European Union and are not negotiable”. In the British press only half was translated, though the German press reported the comments in full, including “To restrict freedom of movement across Europe. That will not do.”

The German Chancellor did not say that she agrees with limiting freedom of movement within the single market, and this is clear in the German text. However, when translated into English her position has suddenly changed. It’s not so much a poor German translation, as omitting parts of the original German statements.

We can probably expect to see more of this up to the invoking of Article 50 in March and in the two years following, as negotiations are conducted. You might want to increase your reading of the press in Germany or France, to get the view from other nations, rather than rely on the selective translations the UK press are going to serve up!

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