Prime Minister Theresa May is set to cave to pressure from left-wingers in her own party and cabinet in their bid to fudge UK immigration figures.
Leading leftist Tories have been campaigning for the Prime Minister to remove student numbers from the nation’s immigration data, artificially reducing statistics to help the government reach its long-standing aspiration of lowering numbers into the tens of thousands.
The strategy may be an attempt to defang immigration hawks and Brexit campaigners amongst them by diluting one of their key campaign talking points: Britain’s migration crisis.
Over the past few decades immigration has reached unprecedented levels in the UK, placing strain on national infrastructure, the National Health Service, schools, and community cohesion.
Now, Scottish Conservative MPs led by Ruth Davidson alongside left-wing Home Secretary Amber Rudd want to artificially remove around 75,000 people a year from the figures to help fool the public.
May had originally objected to the move, stating in November: “Students are in the net migration figures because it is in the international definition of net migration and we abide by the same definition that is used by other countries around the world.”
A government source told the Daily Mail this week: “It is inevitable that someone will bring forward an amendment on this, and it is very difficult to see how we could defeat it.”
The report also included the following information:
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.
In March the Financial Times ran through the arguments in favour of keeping student numbers in the statistics, citing Theresa May’s pledges on the matter, UN definitions of long-term migrants which includes students, poor quality UK immigration data, as well as the problem with creating a precedent of exemptions.
In December 2017, George Freeman a former science minister and head of Mrs May’s policy board told Sky News: “I think it is very important that we signal we are open to Britain as an education beacon of the world. It is one of our great industries. I want to bring more students here,” he said.
Net migration fell by over 100,000 in the year to June following the referendum but is still well off that Conservative target [of 100,000] at 230,000. The number of students coming to the UK fell by 23,000 to 141,000 over the same period.
Brexit campaigner Sir Gerald Howarth said last month: “The numbers are still far too high and this must be addressed as soon as Britain leaves the EU in March 2019. The Government should adopt a British work permit system to cut net migration to sustainable levels last seen in the mid 1990s.”