The regrettable triggering of Article 50 — the notification of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union — has coincidentally led to a leak of a discussion document, purportedly from Whitehall. This suggests that withdrawal from the EU will not only restrict entry to the UK by economic migrants from Europe but that imports of books from the continent may also be restricted. And there’s more.
Here are the main proposals:
- Books from EU countries shall, after 2019, be repatriated to their country of origin. Those in French shall shipped over to France, Belgium or Switzerland, as appropriate; the same with Spanish, Italian and German etc. Cheap Eastern European publications in particular will be sought out as constituting possible threats to the British book trade. Contracts will go out to tender to private services for the task of policing this repatriation. Agents will be allowed to enter private properties and public institutions to seize any books declared as alien; any individuals or institutions not voluntarily offering up such books will be subject to severe penalties.
- Books in English (it’s not clear if publications in Welsh, Scots Gaelic or Unified Cornish are similarly affected) already in Europe will lose any right of re-entry, either for repair, resale or lending.
- Books authored by foreign nationals — Cervantes, Dumas, Goethe or Dante for example — but translated into English and published in the UK will be placed in special holding centres, available only from restricted sections. UK nationals wishing to consult them will have to offer good legal justifications for such; furthermore they will have to go on a special register after approval, and apply for re-licensing every two years.
- Books seized under these proposals will not be burnt — this being regarded as a particularly European practice — but will be subjected to continuous assessment by trained inspectors until they voluntarily fall to pieces.
- Finally, books by bona fide British authors will be subject to strict censorship: they will be thoroughly searched for non-British words and phrases, particularly European words and phrases, which may indicate either European recidivistic leanings or the undeclared European origins of the author.
This leaked document — which appeared online — has since been deleted, and I was only able to quickly scan it visually and memorise it before it disappeared. As the viewing was brief I cannot vouch for every statement as it appears above, but I can confirm that the general purport of the document is as summarised.