Priti Patel says it is ‘right’ that UK only accepts people who speak English

PUBLISHED: 00:00 19 February 2020 | UPDATED: 14:08 19 February 2020

Home secretary Priti Patel meets students and staff at Imperial College London in South Kensington. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.

Home secretary Priti Patel meets students and staff at Imperial College London in South Kensington. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.

PA Wire/PA Images

Priti Patel has said those seeking to come to the country if they can speak English, as she outlined plans for a post-Brexit immigration system.

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The home secretary claimed the new system would ensure that immigration policy is back under the control of the government for the "first time in decades".

"On January 1 2021, we'll be ending the free movement of labour from the EU, but excitingly this will be our new system - an immigration system that enables the government to take back control of our own immigration policy for the first time in decades," she told the PA news agency while visiting Imperial College. "And it will mean that we will have a global immigration system that doesn't discriminate between EU and non-EU, and it'll basically mean that the brightest and the best will be able to come to the United Kingdom to bring their real talents which we'll recognise through a points-based system."

Asked whether individuals who have an offer from an academic institution, but cannot speak English, would still be able to come to the UK, Patel said: "We're being very clear about this - this is a system that puts the British government in control of its immigration policy for the first time in decades.

"I'm here at Imperial College and I've been looking at the route for global talent - people that obviously will need to speak English, have an offer from an institution, global talent routes, scientists, mathematicians, academics, the people that absolutely should be coming to our amazing institutions, such as Imperial College and other first-class universities across the country, to very much work and learn at universities, but obviously to work in partnership - this university (Imperial College) works with businesses as well to develop skills, the future skills that our economy and our country needs.

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"And, yes, it is right that people should speak English before they come to our country, that they should have a sponsored route, whether it's through employment or a sponsored route through an academic institution."

Asked what assurances could be given to those already living in the UK who do not meet the thresholds outlined, Patel said: "Well, I think first and foremost we have a number of routes and importantly we have the EU Settlement Scheme.

"It's important to recognise this is the biggest scheme of this nature that the British government has operated and we've obviously had a huge number of registrations - over 3.2 million applications - giving EU citizens their settled status in the United Kingdom, them and their families, so that they continue to live and to work and to contribute to our country, which is a great thing and it shows that we are open, we're positive, we're open for business, but I think importantly we are open to the world and that is effectively what our points-based system will achieve for our country."

The home secretary also said discussions had been held with the devolved administrations to make it a system that applies to all of the UK.

"Of course this is a system for the whole of the United Kingdom," she said.

"There's been discussions taking place across the whole of government for a number of months and, in fact, even prior to the general election there'd been discussions taking place across all government departments and the devolved administrations."

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