Thousands of steel jobs at risk of £ 100million hit if warranties are lifted, industry warns
The bosses of the sector fear for its future if the government continues to reduce protections
Thousands of steel jobs are at risk as the industry braces for a £ 100million blow, experts are warning today.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss is set to remove “safeguards” to protect the industry from cheap foreign imports.
She is expected to announce in a few days that she is accepting a recommendation to remove the defenses – even if her foreign rivals keep theirs.
Business leaders fear that 2,500 jobs out of the 33,000 employees are at risk.
UK Steel chief executive Gareth Stace warned the industry would be “exposed to uncontrolled increases in imports” if Ms Truss approved a recommendation from the Trade Remedies Authority.
He said: ‘UK Steel figures show that the proposed weakening of guarantees could cost the industry around £ 100million due to increased imports and reduced market share and profitability of British producers.
“This loss of turnover is equivalent to 50% of the total capital investment of steel producers each year, or 2,500 employees, or 8% of total employment in the sector.
“Such a blow to profits would likely result in a mix of job losses as well as sharp contractions of capital investments made in the sector in the years to come, compromising the sector’s ability to innovate, modernize and decarbonize.”
Protections were introduced by the EU in 2018 when the UK was part of Brussels trade rules, in retaliation for Donald Trump’s White House imposition of tariffs on steel imports.
EU measures continued in Britain until January, when the Brexit transition ended.
The UK regime has set duty-free quotas for a range of steel products based on 2015-2017 import levels.
It is only when fulfilled that customs duties are applied to any additional imports over a period of three months.
The measures have been extended until this month, but the UK’s Trade Remedy Investigations Directorate recommended they be relaxed – a move backed by the TRA.
Urging ministers to reverse the recommendation, Mr Stace said: “The government needs to act urgently to support the sector and ensure the right decision is made.
“Inaction will simply condemn the UK steel industry to compete in an unfair business environment, facing barriers to exporting without having adequate defenses at home.
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“We would lose shares in our domestic market without being able to compensate for that with export gains.
“We want to work with the government to level Britain; instead, they are dragging our steel industry down.
Community Steelworkers Union Operations Manager Alasdair McDiarmid said, “Steel guarantees protect us from being inundated with cheap foreign imports and it would be an unforgivable act of self-harm to give up our protections then. that the EU and the US maintain their own defenses. .
“This government has had many warm words for the steelworkers, but we must act now; failure would make a mockery of Conservative promises to support British industry, British workers and the industrial communities.
Labor MP Jessica Morden, secretary of the Westminster All-Party Steel Parliamentary Group, said: ‘The question for the government is simple – at a time when the global steel market faces the problem of overcapacity, why is the government choosing to remove vital safeguards from our industry?
“The responses from the ministers have been dismal.
“This is one of the major tests of our new trade priorities and the government is sitting on its hands and pretending there is nothing it can do.”
Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband said: “The importance of this decision to steelmakers in our country is enormous and risks a wave of cheap steel imports that undermine British steel and deeply damage the economy. industry.
“The EU and the US recognize this and protect their own industries.
“We should do the same and use all the tools at our disposal to support our own steel industry, as this is crucial for national security, for jobs and for the success of manufacturing.
“For the first time in almost 50 years, the UK has sole control over our foreign trade policy.
“Yet rather than use the opportunity to develop a trade policy that will support and defend British industries, the government is preparing to trample on them.
“They must change course and fully extend these protections. A government spokeswoman previously said: “The Commerce Secretary’s decision on the recommendation will be released before the measure expires on June 30, 2021.”
The Mirror has been campaigning for Save Our Steel since the industry was hit by factory closures and thousands of layoffs in 2015.