Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Europe must take a leap to get out of the quagmire (Guardian)

There is no Merkellande or Frangela, but François Hollande has shown good political acumen on the eurozone crisis, says Christine Ockrent.

2. A new Europe of competing currencies (Financial Times)

Unused needs and unused hands cannot exist side by side indefinitely, says Samuel Brittan.

3. No social engineering can ever fix our genes (Times) (£)

To improve social mobility we must nurture the poorest in society. But, Philip Collins argues, nature will always hold some people back.

4. If socialists really did run the show, working people would benefit (Independent)

Owen Jones examines the reasons that the word "socialist" has begun to be seen as a swearword.

5. A free Egypt’s first task is to rein in the army (Times) (£)

Heba Fatma Mourayef writes that elections alone don’t mean democracy. Rights for women and religious groups matter too.

6. Sadly Barack Obama, like Mitt Romney, is an apologist for the 1 per cent (Guardian)

It may be to a lesser extend than the Republican candidate, but the US president is a frontman for financial interests, says Mehdi Hasan.

7. Summits that cap the west’s decline (Financial Times)

The rebalancing of power was never going to be easy but the speed of the turnround has been breathtaking, says Philip Stephens.

8. If President Rousseff passes the forest code, it won't be only Brazil that suffers (Guardian)

Brazil has a proud record of protecting the environment, but a bill allowing deforestation would undermine the Rio+20 summit, says Fernando Meirelles.

9. Old Europe should invest in young Africa (Times) (£)

Building roads, power plants and water systems in developing countries can safeguard western jobs and pensions, says Tidjane Thiam.

10. We must defy Strasbourg on prisoner votes (Daily Telegraph)

The judges in Europe have exceeded their authority by trying to overrule British law, write David Davis and Jack Straw.

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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