Union flags line Parliament Square behind a statue of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in London. File Photo by Andy Rain/EPA EFE
Feb. 19 (UPI) -- In one of its first major policy steps after leaving the European Union, the British government said Wednesday it will stop admitting non-English speaking, unskilled migrant workers.
The ban is part of a new immigration point system, similar to that used in Australia, and will start in 2021.
"For too long, distorted by European free movement rights, the immigration system has been failing to meet the needs of the British people," the government said in a statement.
"Our approach will change all of this. We are implementing a new system that will transform the way in which all migrants come to [Britain] to work, study, visit or join their family. It will also revolutionize the operation of the [British] border, tighten security and deliver a better customer experience."
Under the new law, migrants must earn 70 points to enter Britain. Fifty are earned if they have a job offer from an approved sponsor, it's at an appropriate skill level and they can speak English at a "required level."
Immigrants can also receive points if they fill STEM jobs, the position is at a doctorate educational level or it fills a job shortage.
The announcement was met swiftly with criticism from industry leaders, the Labor Party and other critics.
"Jobs the government considers 'low-skilled' are vital to well-being and business growth," Tom Hadley, director of policy at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, said. "We need access to workers that can help us look after the elderly, build homes and keep the economy strong."
Diane Abbott, Labor's shadow home secretary, called the English-speaking requirement "inhumane and damaging" and a "dog whistle" for those wanting to discriminate against certain immigrant groups.
"Most people who come here to work can already speak English," Abbott said. "Ultimately, it will also be very difficult to attract the workers we need at all skill levels."