Interview with authors of the Brexit glossary: the House of Commons library

Interview House of Commons

Last November, a Brexit glossary was released with the aim of providing clarification on terms and acronyms that have been frequently used since the result of the UK referendum in June 2016, of which recently featured earlier this month. We got in contact with the subject specialists from the House of Commons Library, who compiled the glossary, to find out more.

How did you decide on the terms and acronyms to be included, how was this whittled down?

We decided to create a glossary after the referendum result to list terms that had been conceived in relation to Brexit.  It was also to define some of the specific EU related terms that were now being mentioned in relation to Brexit.  It has grown quite considerably in length as new terms need clarifying.

  1. Who provided the definitions of the selected terms?

The definitions are provided by the various subject specialists across the Library (their names are listed on page 4 of  the paper).

(Contributing authors: Philip Brien, Graeme Cowie, John Curtis, Grahame Danby, Joanna Dawson, Jeanne Delebarre, Tim Edmonds, Eleanor Gadd, Ilze Jozepa, Matthew Keep, Arabella Lang, TerryMcGuiness, Sylvia de Mars, Vaughne Miller, Ed Potton, Dominic Webb).

  1. What is the process of creating the Brexit glossary? How long does it take?

I send an e-mail out to my colleagues requesting terms in their areas that have been frequently mentioned in relation to Brexit and would be useful to have a definition of.  The time taken to compile an update can vary depending on the workload of the Library subject specialist.

  1. The House of Commons library is an independent service, providing politically impartial briefings and research. Given how politically charged Brexit terminology is, has this been a challenge to find neutral ground?

It can be challenging, but this is the kind of challenge we tackle every day in our jobs, so we are used to thinking about the language we use and the need to be as objective and impartial as possible.

  1. Did you use any EU terminology resources for the creation of the glossary, like e.g. IATE, EU glossaries or

No, although I have used ‘EU vocabularies’ for translations.

  1. Do you foresee any updates of the glossary?

The glossary has already been updated about 5 times since it was first created in December 2016 to keep it current.  As new terms are constantly being coined in relation to Brexit, updates and additions are needed.  The glossary has to be updated to reflect name changes, the entry for the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union for example has been updated a number of times.  I try and update the glossary every 4 months or when a significant change is needed to keep the document relevant.

  1. Will the glossary be translated into multiple languages?

I do not foresee the glossary being translated as we do not have the resources or translators in the Library.

  1. The House of Commons Library has hired a specialist Brexit editor, what exactly does this role entail? 

The Brexit Editor is a new post, responsible for ensuring that MPs and their staff have the information they need to scrutinise the Brexit process, and that the Library’s external audiences can rely on our briefings to be clear, engaging and accessible. An important aspect of this is to help the Library prioritise its Brexit publications by developing an editorial strategy to make the best use of our resources. This will include keeping a schedule of publications for forthcoming Brexit milestones, identifying why the briefing is important and which staff will be working on them.

The Editor will work with our subject specialists to deliver the strategy, ensuring that the briefings we publish are timely, accessible and meet the needs of our readers.

  1. What has been the impact so far of the Brexit glossary? Have you received any feedback?

The glossary landing page has been viewed 5.5k times since it was first published in December 2016, and downloaded 1,954 times.

Written by Mairead Finlay – Communication Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg). She has studied Translation at the University of Geneva and holds a BA in Politics and French from the University of Bristol.