With friends like these, who needs enemies?: Owen Paterson adds to Ukip's pressure on the PM. Photo: Getty
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Pressure builds for David Cameron's EU renegotiation as a former minister calls for UK's exit

A former Tory cabinet secretary is set to call for Britain to leave the EU, putting pressure on the Prime Minister who is preparing his renegotiation.

Owen Paterson, who was mischievous at best as a minister, since being sacked as Environment Secretary in the summer is now a regular thorn in the side for David Cameron. His latest intervention is a speech to eurosceptic business leaders, which will call for Britain to leave the EU and for the Prime Minister to negotiate a free-trade agreement with the rest of Europe instead. He is expected to emphasise to the campaign group, Business for Britain, that the UK can grow economically outside of the European Union.

This intervention comes at a difficult time for David Cameron, who is putting the finishing touches on a big speech about immigration, which he is expected to deliver very soon. What he unveils concerning immigration from the European Union will come under intense scrutiny, due to the rise of Ukip taking votes from his party mainly due to its policy on migration and Britain's place in the EU. Being asked outright by a former minister to take the UK out of the EU, as part of the renegotiation of its EU membership ahead of his promised in/out referendum in 2017, adds to the pressure Ukip is already placing on Cameron and the Conservative party. It is also likely to exacerbate the divisions over Europe in the party that have constantly been bubbling to the surface during this parliament.

The Telegraph reports that Paterson will say:

Our democratic institutions and not just our common law system but our respect and adherence to the rule of law, have been exported around the world. We simply do not need to have our lives ruled by an organisation in which our own elected politicians can be overruled by unelected civil servants and whose concept of government emerged from the horrors of the First World War.

Paterson will also moot an alternative to the UK's EU membership. He will state that his preferred option is for Britain to be like Norway, forging a free-trade agreement with European countries, including access to the single market. This view is held by many of the eurosceptics on Cameron's backbenches, and is something the Prime Minister will have to counter soon, whether it be in his immigration speech or otherwise.

Following the Tory defeat at the Rochester and Strood by-election last Friday, Ukip is continuing to make life difficult for a Prime Minister who cannot, and has said he will not, propose to take the country out of the European Union. But with high-profile figures in the Tory party now publicly proposing alternatives to our EU membership, it now seems like a case for Cameron of "with friends like these, who needs enemies?"

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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Sooner or later, a British university is going to go bankrupt

Theresa May's anti-immigration policies will have a big impact - and no-one is talking about it. 

The most effective way to regenerate somewhere? Build a university there. Of all the bits of the public sector, they have the most beneficial local effects – they create, near-instantly, a constellation of jobs, both directly and indirectly.

Don’t forget that the housing crisis in England’s great cities is the jobs crisis everywhere else: universities not only attract students but create graduate employment, both through directly working for the university or servicing its students and staff.

In the United Kingdom, when you look at the renaissance of England’s cities from the 1990s to the present day, universities are often unnoticed and uncelebrated but they are always at the heart of the picture.

And crucial to their funding: the high fees of overseas students. Thanks to the dominance of Oxford and Cambridge in television and film, the wide spread of English around the world, and the soft power of the BBC, particularly the World Service,  an education at a British university is highly prized around of the world. Add to that the fact that higher education is something that Britain does well and the conditions for financially secure development of regional centres of growth and jobs – supposedly the tentpole of Theresa May’s agenda – are all in place.

But at the Home Office, May did more to stop the flow of foreign students into higher education in Britain than any other minister since the Second World War. Under May, that department did its utmost to reduce the number of overseas students, despite opposition both from BIS, then responsible for higher education, and the Treasury, then supremely powerful under the leadership of George Osborne.

That’s the hidden story in today’s Office of National Statistics figures showing a drop in the number of international students. Even small falls in the number of international students has big repercussions for student funding. Take the University of Hull – one in six students are international students. But remove their contribution in fees and the University’s finances would instantly go from surplus into deficit. At Imperial, international students make up a third of the student population – but contribute 56 per cent of student fee income.

Bluntly – if May continues to reduce student numbers, the end result is going to be a university going bust, with massive knock-on effects, not only for research enterprise but for the local economies of the surrounding area.

And that’s the trajectory under David Cameron, when the Home Office’s instincts faced strong countervailing pressure from a powerful Treasury and a department for Business, Innovation and Skills that for most of his premiership hosted a vocal Liberal Democrat who needed to be mollified. There’s every reason to believe that the Cameron-era trajectory will accelerate, rather than decline, now that May is at the Treasury, the new department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy doesn’t even have responsibility for higher education anymore. (That’s back at the Department for Education, where the Secretary of State, Justine Greening, is a May loyalist.)

We talk about the pressures in the NHS or in care, and those, too, are warning lights in the British state. But watch out too, for a university that needs to be bailed out before long. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.