Tories May Have Overreached vis-a-vis Language Requirement for Spouses

By David North on November 24, 2010

The new British government may have outreached itself by planning to require that immigrant spouses of UK citizens must speak the English language.

Lord knows that no American government would make such a demand.

While a Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition runs the government, the Conservatives seem to be the ones setting immigration policy. The two parties, while agreeing to run the nation together, had quite different immigration policies before the recent election. The Liberal Democrats strongly support the open borders position, and the Conservatives do not.

The Guardian ran an article indicating that the government is planning to require the passing of an English language test by prospective immigrant spouses coming from non-English speaking nations. As one of the critics of the plan pointed out, that would force the test on a resident of India with an advanced degree in English literature, but not on a Californian, say, who speaks only Spanish.

Such a test, according to a pair of British barristers, might breach human rights and race relations laws, and would have "more to do with reducing the numbers of immigrants to Britain than minimizing abuse."

Under the British system if the government's regulations fail a court test, it could always go to the Parliament to override the decision. Whether the courts of the European Union would be involved is another variable.

The British have always been more skittish than Americans about marriages between homeland residents and spouses from abroad; the latter, in the case of the UK, have been primarily from the Indian subcontinent. Questions of arranged marriages, traditional in India, and frowned upon in the UK, have been part of the controversy, as has fraud.

One way to reduce the numbers of such marriages would be to lay on the language requirement.

My sense, and I may be wrong, is that imposing such a test on spouses – as opposed to, say, prospective workers – is likely to kick up such a fuss that the Cameron government will drop the whole idea. We will see.

As the tabloids might put it: "Will Love or Language Prevail?"