Ministers are preparing to take foreign students out of immigration figures 

Ministers are preparing to take foreign students out of immigration figures 

Ministers are preparing to take foreign students out of immigration figures 

Ministers are preparing to take foreign students out of immigration figures

Foreign students ‘will be cut’ from immigration figures by ministers despite opposition from Theresa May

Ministers are preparing to take foreign students out of immigration figures

The PM opposed it, saying it would undermine confidence in the statistics

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has warned Mrs. May that growing support for the measure in Parliament means it is now ‘inevitable’

Ministers are preparing to take foreign students out of the immigration figures, despite opposition from Theresa May.

The Prime Minister has blocked the move for years, arguing it would undermine confidence in the UK’s immigration statistics.

But Home Secretary Amber Rudd has warned Mrs. May that growing support for the measure in Parliament means it is now ‘inevitable’. The Home Office believes there is no way of preventing MPs from forcing a parliamentary vote on the issue when the new Immigration Bill is brought forward this year.

A Government source said: ‘It is inevitable that someone will bring forward an amendment on this, and it is very difficult to see how we could defeat it.’

Ministers were braced for defeat on the issue last year after an amendment to the Higher Education Bill was passed by the Lords.

The bid was killed off by June’s snap election. But, with the Tories had lost their Commons majority, minister’s fear there is no prospect of avoiding defeat now and are urging the PM to back down.

British ambassadors have also been lobbying Mrs. May to abandon her red line on the issue. A Whitehall source said: ‘If we are going to make a success of Brexit and make a reality of the idea of “Global Britain”, then we have to be more open to the world. That is the message the PM is getting from ambassadors.’

About 438,000 foreign students are currently studying here. Removing them from the statistics could make a significant difference to headline immigration figures.

Mrs. May resisted the move for years as home secretary, warning that it would be seen by voters as an attempt to ‘fiddle the figures’. She said keeping foreign students in the statistics would maintain pressure on universities to root out bogus students.

Mrs. May also cited research suggesting up to 100,000 foreign students a year failed to return home after graduating. But supporters of the change argue that exit checks show the vast majority of foreign students do not overstay.

A Home Office study last year found that 97 percent either left when their visa expired or was allowed to stay.

Miss Rudd is now asking the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to back a change in the definition of immigration, which would exclude most foreign students.

The PM is under pressure from fellow Cabinet ministers to back down over the issue. In a rare alliance, Boris Johnson has joined forces with Miss Rudd and Chancellor Philip Hammond to urge her to reconsider her stance. Communities Secretary Sajid Javid and Business Secretary Greg Clark are also said to be in favour of the change.

One Cabinet source said Mrs. May was in ‘a minority of one’ in resisting the move, but added: ‘It is quite an important minority.’

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