politics

Thousands of steel jobs at risk in £100m blow if safeguards axed, warns industry


Thousands of steel jobs are at risk as the industry braces for a £100million blow, experts warn today.

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss is poised to scrap “safeguards” aimed at protecting the sector from cheap foreign imports.

She is expected to announce within days that she is accepting a recommendation to axe defences – even though foreign rivals are keeping theirs.

Company bosses fear 2,500 jobs from the 33,000-strong workforce could be plunged into jeopardy.

UK Steel director-general Gareth Stace warned the industry would be left “exposed to uncontrolled surges in imports” if Ms Truss approves a recommendation from the Trade Remedies Authority.



International Trade Secretary Liz Truss will announce her decision within days

He said: “UK Steel figures show that the proposed weakening of the safeguards could cost the sector an estimated £100m as a result of increased imports and subsequent reduced market share and profitability for UK producers.

“This loss in sales is equivalent to 50% of the entire capital investment of steel producers each year, or 2,500 employees – 8% of the total employment in the sector.

“Such a knock to profits would likely see a mixture of job losses as well as sharp contractions to capital investment made in the sector in future years, jeopardising the sector’s ability to innovate, modernise and decarbonise.”




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 slapping tariffs on steel imports.

The EU measures carried on in Britain until January when the Brexit transition ended.

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The British regime set tariff-free quotas for a range of steel products based on 2015-2017 levels of imports.

Only once they have been filled are tariffs applied to any extra imports over a three-month period.



Red hot metal is moved across the heavy forge at the Forgemasters Works
Experts fear for job losses if the recommendation is accepted

Measures were extended until this month but the UK Trade Remedies Investigations Directorate recommended they were relaxed – a move backed by the TRA.

Urging ministers to overturn the recommendation, Mr Stace said: “The Government must urgently intervene to support the sector and ensure the right decision is made.

“Inaction will simply condemn the UK steel industry to competing in an unfair trading environment, facing barriers to export while not having adequate defences at home.



Some 2,500 posts could be at risk

“We would lose share of our home market while not being able to offset this with export gains.

“We want to work with the Government to level up Britain; instead, they are levelling down our steel sector.”

Community steelworkers’ union operations director Alasdair McDiarmid said: “The steel safeguards protect us from being flooded by cheap foreign imports and it would be an unforgivable act of self-harm to give up our protections when the EU and the US are maintaining their own defences.



Community union operations director Alasdair McDiarmid

“This Government has had plenty of warm words for steelworkers but we need action now; failure would make a mockery of Tory promises to support British industry, British workers and industrial communities.”

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Labour MP Jessica Morden, secretary of Westminster’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Steel, said: “The question for the Government is simple – at a time when the global steel market is dealing with the problem of overcapacity, why is the Government choosing to remove vital safeguards from our industry?

“Ministers’ responses have been woeful.



Labour MP Jessica Morden, who is secretary of Parliament’s cross-party group on steel

“Here is one of the major tests of our new trading priorities and the Government are sitting on their hands and pretending that there’s nothing they can do.”

Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband said: “The significance of this decision for our country’s steelmakers is huge and risks a surge of cheap steel imports undercutting British steel, and deeply damaging the industry.

“Both the EU and US recognise this and are protecting their own industries.



Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband

“We should be doing the same and using every tool at our disposal to support our own steel industry, because it is crucial for national security, for jobs, and for manufacturing success.

“For the first time in nearly 50 years, the UK has sole control over our external trade policy.

“Yet rather than use the opportunity to develop a trade policy that will support and champion British industries, the Government is preparing to trample over them.

“They must change course and extend these protections in full.” A Government spokeswoman said previously: “The Trade Secretary’s decision on the recommendation will be published before the measure is due to expire on June 30, 2021.”

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The Mirror has been campaigning to Save Our Steel since the industry was hit by plant closures and thousands of redundancies in 2015.





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