Theresa May could be forced to drop her student migrant target

Theresa May could be forced to jettison her controversial policy of including foreign students in immigration figures as a new bill comes before MPs.

The Immigration Bill, which will set out post-Brexit legislation, will enable MPs to vote on the issue. A Home Office source has told the Independent the department believes May will face defeat.

In November more than 100 MPs wrote to May demanding that she drop the policy and City A.M. understands that several Cabinet ministers are against the inclusion of foreign students in official figures.

One former minister suggested the Prime Minister was the sole advocate for the policy, which is as unpopular in the business and academic world as it is in Westminster.

But it has been a long-held position for May, who championed it when she was home secretary. Current incumbent Amber Rudd is among those to have publicly rejected the idea, and is thought to have support from chancellor Philip Hammond, foreign secretary Boris Johnson and business secretary Greg Clark. Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has also called for May to rethink her position.

But so far May has resisted calls for her to drop the policy, even after it was revealed that the real number of students who overstay their visa was far smaller than originally estimated.

Instead of 90,000-plus students a year, the ONS revealed in August that the total number was just 4,600.

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