In Brief

Theresa May faces immigration defeat on foreign students

Foreign nationals studying in the UK may no longer be counted as immigrants

Theresa May is facing a political defeat which could force her to drop her long-standing commitment to count foreign students as immigrants.

 Since her time as Home Secretrary, May has resisted calls for international students to be excluded from official immigration figures.

Now it appears a new immigration bill later this year will allow MPs who oppose the Prime Minister on the issue to force a vote, which they are likely to win.

A shift in attitude has left May in what The Independent describes as “a minority of one” in government. Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, as well as businesses and universities, have all called for the policy to be scrapped.

But taking foreign students out of the official figures will be embarrassing for May, who has said doing so will weaken defences against higher immigration - and who fears it will be seen by voters as an attempt to fiddle the figures.

Last year, exit checks revealed that fewer than 5,000 foreign students overstay when their visas expire, not the 100,000 a year claimed by the Prime Minister.

May has reiterated her commitment to cutting down immigration to the “tens of thousands”. With about 438,000 foreign students currently studying in the UK, changing how they are classed could make a significant difference to the headline immigration numbers. 

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