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    London cabs drive along Parliament Square, London, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012

    Black Taxi for Brexit! London Minicab Drivers Must Pass English Language Test

    © AP Photo / Kirsty Wigglesworth
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    With rhetoric befitting the UK's Brexit campaign, the battle between London's black cab drivers and private hire firms has got personal; where you come from and whether you can speak English will now dictate whether you can drive on London's roads or not.

    The central argument during Britain's Leave campaign to exit the EU was based upon the potential for the UK to "take back control" of its borders with more "British jobs for British people."

    ​Striking a familiar chord with the Brexit campaign, Transport for London's (TFL) new rules for foreign mini-cab drivers appears to encapsulate the UK's fears surrounding immigration and freedom of movement, or potential lack of it.

    From 1 April 2016, all minicab drivers in London, whatever nationality, will have to prove that they satisfy new English language requirements when they apply for a license.

    ​Announcing that all foreign mini-cab drivers must pass an English test if they're to drive on London's roads, Helen Chapman spokesperson for TFL said:

    "It is essential for public safety that all licensed drivers can communicate in English at an appropriate level. Drivers must be able to communicate with passengers to discuss a route, or fare, as well as reading and understanding important regulatory, safety and travel information."

    Steve McNamara, General Secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association told Sputnik that it "welcomed" TFL's "long overdue" announcement.

    "The introduction of these English language tests is a welcome and long overdue first step towards raising standards in the minicab industry and protecting Londoners. The majority of the minicab industry has also welcomed the introduction of the tests as part of efforts to improve the service it offers and to benefit passengers and drivers — as any responsible operator should," Mr. McNamara told Sputnik.

    The new English test, which sounds similar to language requirements for specific immigration visas set by Britain's Home Office, is obligatory for all drivers — unless they can prove they have a passed an exam at school in any subject, or a B1 level in English. 

    However in September 2016, Uber, the tech-taxi company won the right to take TFL to court to challenge its new language rules, accusing the transport body of threatening "the livelihoods of thousands of drivers in London, while also stifling tech companies like Uber."

    ​But London's black cab drivers, famous for having an opinion on almost everything in life, including British politics, have been fighting global car share company Uber in a bid to protect their trade, putting pressure on TFL to review the private-hire industry ever since Uber erupted on the streets of London, slashing the average cost of a black cab fare and the need to carry cash.

    The new rules, set to come into force on 1 April 2017, will follow the expected severing of the UK with the rest of Europe following the announcement by Britain's Prime Minister that Article 50 will be invoked in March 2017; officially marking the exit from the EU by Britain. 

    But for a running commentary on Brexit — you'd be better off in the back of a black cab than in Theresa May's cabinet after Mrs. May said she had no intention of offering one.


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    black cab, language competency, taxi, foreign, test, employment, business, English language, language, immigration, Brexit, Uber, Theresa May, Great Britain, Europe, United Kingdom, London
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