Theresa May slaps down Liam Fox over foreign students

Posted On: 
15th March 2017

Downing Street has slapped down Liam Fox after he defied the Prime Minister by calling for foreign students not to be included in official migration figures.

Theresa May and Liam Fox are at odds over immigration policy.
PA Images

The International Trade Secretary laid bare simmering Cabinet tensions on the issue while appearing before a committee of peers this morning.

He said there was "an ongoing argument inside government" over the current policy, which sees foreign students included in the numbers, and that he had made his views clear to Home Secretary Amber Rudd.

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Dr Fox said: "I think there is a value for those who come and study in the United Kingdom. I 100% accept the point that they will be in many cases imbued by the values that they experience while they are here; many of them will go on to establish long-term relationships with the United Kingdom, understanding our institutions."

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has previously called for foreign students not to count towards the net migration figure, while Chancellor Philip Hammond was also rebuked by Number 10 for saying the stats need to reflect “public perception” of immigration.

Asked whether Dr Fox's remarks meant the policy was being looked at again, the Prime Minister's spokesman said: "No."

He added: "The Prime Minister has been clear over a long period of time that she believes students should continue to be included in the official migration statistics.

"A migrant is someone who has been here for 12 months or more. There is no cap on genuine students coming here. We recognise the huge contribution they make.

"It's important for planning purposes for local authorities and government that we know who is coming into the country and who is leaving."


The latest Office for National Statistics release showed the number of students coming to the UK dropped 41,000 in the year to September 2016.

The Government has stuck by its pledge to cut net migration below 100,000 – despite the most recent figure showing 273,000 more people came to the UK than left.

A total of 134,000 people came to the UK for long-term study, compared to the estimated 62,000 people who left the UK after originally arriving as students.