Migrants marrying UK citizens must now learn English

Today, the Home Office announced that it is bringing forward to the autumn a piece of Labour legislation that will deny entry to people from outside the EU who marry British citizens but don't speak English.
Today, the Home Office announced that it is bringing forward to the autumn a piece of Labour legislation that will deny entry to people from outside the EU who marry British citizens but don't speak English.

The home secretary, Theresa May, said this would "help promote integration". But this new law, which requires a command of English to the level "of a five- to seven-year-old", will discriminate against some of the world's poorest people. The law won't apply to EU citizens, so the people most likely to be affected – as the Home Office has acknowledged – are those coming from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The right to marry and establish a family is protected by the European convention on human rights, but the government is effectively telling Britons: you can marry who you like, as long as they're not poor and uneducated.

This at the same time when Britain's track record of learning other languages is poor. The previous government removed compulsory language GCSEs in 2004. Since then, the number of teenagers taking a modern language has plummeted, according to research published last month. The CBI has said that more than a third of British businesses recruit people with languages, but that they are forced to look abroad to meet this need.

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