As the UK struggles with its national identity, how to define Britishness, and how to manage its immigrants, Walter Oppenheimer writes in today’s El País:
[Kelly and Byrne] incline towards a system like the Australian one, which gives points to immigrants and removes them depending on their knowledge of the language, their knowledge of the local culture, their participation in organizations of civil society, but also depending on their criminal record, their antisocial behaviour, or whether they drop litter.
It is to be hoped that the requirement to know English is not to be applied to those who go to the United Kingdom for the very purpose of studying the language. And it is a pity that the penalty for antisocial behaviour is not applied also to the Britons, whose youth vandalism reaches levels that are unimaginable on the continent.
The points proposal would exclude citizens of the European Union, perhaps because if these countries applied the same standard to British people, barely a minute proportion of those who live in Spain, Cyprus or France, for example, would pass an exam in local language and culture.
The point about English-language students is very valid. The EFL industry is big and it would be ridiculous to prevent people from going to the UK to study English because they don’t speak the language. But how could such a system be policed? Will language schools have to hand their students over to the police if they fail their exams? Not only would that kill the industry stone-dead in the UK (and lead to its moving to Ireland and maybe even Holland and Scandinavia), but it might be tricky as the exam results take a couple of months to appear (as with GCSE and A-level).