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Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Smart Alex Salmond has had a nasty run-in with reality (Daily Telegraph)

The latest assault from London on keeping the pound and Brussels on joining the EU has left the SNP leader bruised and battered, writes Alan Cochrane. 

2. With seven months to go to the Scottish referendum, the scaremongering has begun (Guardian)

It is simply not true that an independent Scotland would get no place in the EU or a currency union, says Angus Roxburgh. We need facts not scare tactics.

3. Clegg may be batting his eyelashes at Labour, but he won't turn a cold shoulder on the Tories (Independent)

The key issue in any future negotiations for a coalition is the precise context in which they take place, not Clegg’s politics, writes Steve Richards. 

4. How we ended up paying farmers to flood our homes (Guardian)

This government let the farming lobby rip up the rulebook on soil protection – and now we are suffering the consequences, says George Monbiot.

5. The storms reveal how little governments can do (Financial Times)

We have come to see the state as omnipotent in the face of any problem, writes Janan Ganesh. 

6. Cameron's student visa policy is a disastrous own goal (Guardian)

The prime minister's careless immigration pledge is putting off some of our brightest visitors – and damaging Britain, says Timothy Garton Ash.

7. Scotland can be a model for how to split (Financial Times)

There are remarkably few examples of nations breaking up in a civilised way, writes Gideon Rachman. 

8. Salmond’s case for keeping sterling is bluster and abuse (Times)

By the SNP’s logic Britain should adopt the dollar, writes John McTernan. 

9. Fashion is one of the most hyper-capitalist businesses (Guardian)

Haute couture is one of the very few businesses allowed to present itself as not being wholly about commerce, but the facts say otherwise, writes Aditya Chakrabortty.

10. Clegg’s Dangerous Shift (Times)

In his attempt to woo the left, the Deputy Prime Minister risks losing voters in southern and rural constituencies, says a Times editorial. 

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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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