New Tory proposals would require foreign visitors who want to work, study or do business in Britain to pledge allegiance to so-called "British values", in a move branded "ridiculous" by senior coalition partners.
The draft report, ordered by Home Secretary Theresa May and revealed by the Financial Times, is aimed at countering extremism, especially hardline preachers who attempt to visit the UK, seek asylum, lecture and seek to radicalise followers in Britain.
“We want to make clear to those seeking to visit, work or study in the UK, and those granted protection, that they need to abide by and respect British values throughout their stay in this country,” the FT reported the document saying. “We will make British values an integral part of applying for a visa.”
One senior Lib Dem party official called the concept a “ridiculous idea... the Tories talk a good game about the global race and then come forward with preposterous ideas like this, which is completely at odds with the Britain we want, that’s tolerant and open for business and trade and investment. This just isn’t a proportionate response.”
A "British values" test even to attend a business meeting in the UK? Jesus Christ Theresa...http://t.co/lEl6tM1ynJ— Justin Cash (@Justin_Cash_1) February 20, 2015
Is requiring a commitment to 'British values' consistent with 'British values'? http://t.co/fuemJGpk1t— Philippe Sands (@philippesands) February 20, 2015
"Imagine you're on the Paris Metro...." Theresa May plans ‘British values’ test for visitor visas http://t.co/h2TKeakCFG— David Firn (@davidfirn) February 20, 2015
Businesses and universities have frequently warned in past years that overly cumbersome visa rules and bureaucracy are hampering Britain's competitiveness for the best and brightest students and employees
One business leader Mark Hilton, head of immigration policy at London First, said it would undo all "the good work" done to make it easier to do business in the UK.
According to Home Office figures last year, one out of every two applications for entrepreneur visas were refused, with nearly three out of four entrepreneurs failing to extend their visa in the first three quarters of 2013.
The government's tightened immigration rules have forced many talented entrepreneurs to pursue "more achievable" options like setting up their business at home or in other countries, according to a 2014 report by migration advice start-up Migreat. "The knock-on effect of recent closures of old visa routes (including the phasing out of the post-study work visa and the cap on Tier 2 visas) have driven many talented entrepreneurs to follow more achievable paths, either at home or in other countries," the report reads. "Great Britain would benefit from maintaining flexibility in the visas it offers to entrepreneurs if it wants to maintain its international competitiveness in this area, and grow more startups."
A subsequent study by the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said that the coalition's immigration crackdown has put skilled workers off coming to Britain while failing to control migration, and the number of highly skilled migrant workers in the UK dropped by 10% overall, from 270,000 to 242,000, between 2011 and 2013, the figures showed.
In june last year during a visit to London by China's premier Li Keqiang, the Chinese ambassador to London Liu Xiaoming recently complained that progress on making it easier for his countrymen to visit Britain had been "far from enough".
Beijing has made clear that difficulties for business leaders and students getting into the UK are contributing to Chinese firms increasingly switching their attention to rival European economies, despite promises from May, Chancellor George Osborne and London Mayor Boris Johnson that visa regulations would be eased.
This week May has attended Barack Obama's international conference on combating violent extremism, days after two people were killed by a suspected Islamist extremist in the Danish capital Copenhagen, and the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians by IS militants in Libya.
May said recent "shocking" attacks in Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Nigeria, Pakistan and Somalia underscored the fact that extremism in a "global problem".
"In the UK we are already taking action to identify and confront extremism through the Prevent programme. Terrorists and extremists use a range of methods, including social media, to promote their twisted ideology and we need to be equally able to counter and defeat their warped narrative.
"The British message at the summit is that you can't just look at the violent end of extremism, we do need to look across the whole spectrum of extremism."