The government was accused on Saturday night of slamming ailing UK steel industry in the name of Brexit and free trade, as a new political row erupted over plans to allow imports cheaper foreigners in UK.
Several Tory MPs in ‘red wall’ seats, backed by Labor and steel industry leaders, are furious that a government body has officially recommended that legacy protections from the EU to protect UK producers be lifted imminently by the government.
On Monday, Labor will hold a debate in the House of Commons and vote on the issue in an attempt to end the plans, hoping to win the support of Tory backbench MPs who have expressed their anger at the harm that cheaper imports would do to their steel producing areas.
Referring to the recent recommendation from the Trade Remedies Authority (TRA) – an independent body that operates within the Department for International Trade – Gareth Stace, managing director of UK Steel, which represents the industry, said the EU was coming de renewed its protections on Friday meant Britain’s steel industry would be even more exposed if ministers acted on official advice. “The TRA’s decision to end steel safeguards for half of the product categories exposes the UK steel industry to uncontrolled increases in imports and is a hammer blow.”
Stace added: “The UK government is wasting the opportunity to make Brexit work for the domestic industry and leaving an independent body to harm the UK steel industry, not support it. We want to work with the government to level Britain, instead they are leveling our steel industry. “
Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband said: “The importance of this decision to our steel industry cannot be overstated. UK Steel has called the government’s proposal “madness”, and ministers must listen. If the government slashes import protection, it risks opening the floodgates to cheap steel imports, undermining British steel.
“We should use all the tools at our disposal to support our steel industry, but the government is pursuing the opposite path. This is the opposite of what the government has promised to do after Brexit.
The dispute reveals growing tensions over the government’s pursuit of free trade agreements to replace access to the EU’s single market after Brexit.
British farmers last week claimed ministers betrayed them after details of a free trade deal reached with Australia, which they fear will result in lower imports of cheaper meat and of lower quality.
Labor argued that when making business decisions ministers must consider the impact on domestic industry and national strategic interests.
Holly Mumby-Croft, Conservative MP for Scunthorpe and co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on steel, has already sounded the alarm by saying: ‘There is a real risk that the UK will be increasingly vulnerable to imports if they are removed. “
The EU introduced the limits in 2019 to protect the European steel industry from a glut of steel, she feared it would be diverted from the United States after Donald Trump imposed tariffs on cheap steel imports from China and elsewhere in the United States. When the UK left the EU, the limits were transposed into UK law, but their application will expire at the end of this month. The EU announced last week that it would extend the three-year limits.
The steel industry currently employs 33,700 people in the UK and a further 42,000 in related supply chains. The oversupply on the world market has been a major factor in the struggle for the survival of British industry.
Aberavon Labor MP Stephen Kinnock said: “Monday’s vote will reveal whether the outsourcing of the decision to remove nine critical steel protections is a Tory move or a Tory conspiracy. Either the government votes with Labor to bring forward emergency legislation that can amend the mistakes of the Trade Bill, or it votes against and, in doing so, exposes the true intent of its post-Brexit trade policy: to sacrifice the British jobs and industry on the altar. of his desperation to make trade deals.
“Last week they sold our farmers. Will our steelworkers be next?
The government said, “All interested parties, including importers, domestic producers and foreign exporters, were able to participate in the review to provide evidence to be considered in the assessment of the TRA. The TRA is a non-ministerial public body and all of its decisions are based on a careful analysis of the evidence.
“The trade secretary’s decision will be released before the measure expires on June 30.”