Removing steel safeguards leaves the industry at risk of collapse
It is essential for the UK government to extend steel safeguards beyond their June 2021 expiry date, or we risk job losses and endangering this treasured British industry.
British made steel is one of the pillars that built this great nation to what it is today, contributing £2 billion to the UK economy in 2020 alone. The British steel industry produces enough for 70% of the UK’s annual requirement of crude steel each year. With 96% of it used in construction and infrastructure recycled and used, over and over.
Yet, for 11 years, this Conservative government has failed to understand the strategic importance of the UK steel industry.
There has been no sector deal, nothing to address uncompetitive energy prices, and they have overseen the closure of steel plants, hollowing out steel towns. The government’s record on steel is one of failure.
The UK now risks the real prospect of leaving our own steel industry needlessly exposed
And having already dismally sold out our farmers and fishers in post-Brexit trade deals, thanks to the government’s lack of concern, it’s about to sell out our steelworkers too, and the UK now risks the real prospect of leaving our own steel industry needlessly exposed.
We face the prospect of losing all safeguards to protect our essential domestic steel industry - from cheaper Chinese imports being dumped through subsidies onto the global markets, and not to mention, produced in a more environmentally damaging manner. No wonder that UK Steel has called this government’s proposal to remove steel import protections as “madness”, which will wreck our steel industry.
This situation is not only one of commercial and economic importance, but more crucially one of strategic national importance. If we are to have sovereignty over our own national security and defence, over our ability to meet our climate commitments and deliver the infrastructure projects for the 21st century, we need our own sovereign steelmaking capacity. As we’ve all seen time and time again, once a steel plant closes and the furnaces go cold, it doesn’t come back!
This is why it is essential for the UK government to extend steel safeguards beyond their June 2021 expiry date, or we risk job losses and endangering this treasured British industry.
So, what is the government doing instead? The answer is to weaken, ignore and neglect.
Ministers must act in the national interest and defend communities which depend on steel. The Tories often talk in slogans about ‘building back better’, but under current plans they leave the industry vulnerable to collapse.
Even on Monday’s vote on this matter, when Conservative MPs had a chance to protect steelworkers across the UK, they chose not to. The government must harness steel’s power and ensure it’s at the forefront of rebuilding our country out of this pandemic.
Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi is the Labour MP for Slough.
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