October 02, 2018
Home secretary also promises beefed-up ‘values test’ to replace current ‘pub quiz’
Sajid Javid to toughen language requirement for immigrants
People seeking British citizenship are to face tougher English-language requirements after Brexit, the home secretary has said, as he announced an overhaul of the immigration system that will include the end of free movement from the EU.
Sajid Javid, addressing the Conservative party conference amid febrile chatter over his prospects as a potential future leader, unveiled plans for a beefed-up “British values test” to replace the Life in the UK test for those looking to settle in the country.
Javid and Theresa May announced proposals overnight for a single immigration system that treats people from EU countries the same as those from non-EU countries. Highly skilled workers who want to live and work in Britain would be given priority, while low-skilled immigration would be curbed.
However, May said the ability of people from abroad to deliver services and student exchange programmes would form part of future trade agreements.
In his speech, Javid went further, announcing plans aimed at improving integration and describing the Life in the UK test as a “pub quiz”.
“It’s about integration, not segregation,” he said, drawing on his experience as communities secretary. “And I’m determined to break down barriers to integration wherever I find them. Take, for example, the most basic barrier of all: language.”
Javid said 700,000 people living in the UK could not speak English.
“As home secretary, I will apply these principles to those who arrive in our country. So not only will there be a new values test but we will also strengthen the English-language requirements for all new citizens.”
Highly skilled migrants coming to the UK on a work visa will not face tougher language requirements than those already in place, the Guardian understands.
Javid said earlier he would consider scrapping the cap on the number of highly skilled migrants as part of the post-Brexit plan. The limit is currently 20,000.
Applicants will need to meet a minimum salary threshold – for highly skilled migrants this currently stands at £30,000 – but Javid has hinted that this will be reviewed.
In his speech in the main hall, the home secretary said: “Thanks to the [Brexit] referendum we now have a unique opportunity to reshape our immigration system for the future.
“A skills-based, single system that is opened up to talent from across the world. A system that doesn’t discriminate between any one region or country. A system based on merit. That judges people not by where they are from, but on what they can do.
“What people want – and they will get – is control of our own system. With a lower, and sustainable level of net migration. And above all, that has to mean one thing: an end to freedom of movement.”
The government has said it intends to publish a white paper this autumn and a bill the following year, meaning it is highly likely MPs will not get to vote on the legislation before the UK leaves the EU in March.
Some of the detail announced overnight by the prime minister was not explicitly included within Javid’s speech, such as plans for those on short-stay business trips and tourists. Also absent were proposals to require skilled migrants to obtain employer sponsorship in order to bring their families to the UK with them.
Elsewhere in his speech, he announced plans to expand powers to strip dual citizens of their British citizenship beyond suspected terrorists to serious criminals, including child abusers and sex traffickers.
He also announced a package of measures to tackle forced marriage, including proposals to refuse spousal entry to the UK where there is evidence a marriage is forced.
Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, to whom Javid unexpectedly paid tribute in his speech, said the government’s plans would be “meaningless” if they continued to stick to the target of reducing net migration to tens of thousands. Most recent figures show it stands at about 270,000. The prime minister in a round of morning interviews insisted the party would maintain the target.
“The cap serves only one purpose and that is to demonise and vilify people who choose to come and live and work in our country, and Labour will scrap it,” Abbott said.
“Labour will introduce a fair migration system, based on the needs of our economy, and a new work visa system that doesn’t shut out the health and social care workers that we desperately need.”
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