Tulip Siddiq
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Shadow minister Tulip Siddiq quits over Article 50 vote: "I have no choice"

The Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn said she felt she had no choice but to resign. 

Tulip Siddiq, a shadow minister for early years education, has quit the Labour front bench in order to vote against the triggering of Article 50.

In a letter to Jeremy Corbyn, she said her constituents in Hampstead and Kilburn voted to remain in the European Union, and she felt she had "no choice but to resign". The Labour leadership is imposing a three-line whip on the vote in favour of Article 50. 

She continued: "I do not support the triggering of Article 50 and cannot reconcile myself to the front bench position."

Siddiq said she did not wish to create more complications for the embattled Labour leader, but added: "I do not represent Westminster in Hampstead and Kilburn, I represent Hampstead and Kilburn in Westminster."

She also pointed out the uncertainties of leaving the EU, including the future of counter-terrorism measures, environmental and employment rights, and access to the single market. 

Siddiq's constituency in leafy North London is one of the most marginal in the country, and voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU referendum in June. While she increased the Labour majority of her predecessor in 2015, Siddiq now faces a new threat from boundary changes. 

The MP's letter concluded: "I feel the most effective place for me to counter Theresa May's hard Brexit is from the backbenches."

Siddiq had previously made it clear she was prepared to vote against Article 50. After the Supreme Court ruled MPs must have a say on Tuesday, she told The Staggers: "I need reassurances on the following things from the government - access to the single market, the relationship with the customs union, protection of workers' rights, environmental protections and the right for EU nationals living in the UK to stay here."

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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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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