Today I’ve written to Boris Johnson to urge him to maintain protections for the steel industry, after he whipped his Conservative MPs to vote down proposals to keep ‘steel safeguards’ (special tariffs on certain steel imports) in the House of Commons last night.
In my letter, I outlined the importance of acting to protect the industry from cheap foreign imports that could undercut Sheffield’s steel production, by maintaining the tariffs inherited from UK membership of the European Union.
The Government’s Trade Remedies Authority has recommended dropping 9 of the 19 ‘steel safeguards’ currently in place in a move described by Gareth Stace, the Director General of UK Steel, as a “hammer blow” for the industry.
Under law established by the Government, the International Trade Secretary can only accept the recommendation to drop the nine safeguards or abandon all safeguards, but has no power to keep the tariffs, so Labour tabled proposals to Parliament last night to change the law so all these measures could be kept in place to protect the UK’s steel industry.
Boris Johnson talks about levelling up, but this is selling out steel communities across the country, and not a single Conservative MP representing those areas backed our proposal last night.
Margaret Thatcher destroyed thousands of steel jobs in Sheffield, David Cameron pulled planned support for local steel producers, and now Boris Johnson is betraying remaining steel producers.
It’s putting their ideology of free trade at any price before British jobs. So while the EU keeps these safeguards for their steel producers, the UK government are failing to do the same – making us doubly vulnerable as the target for cheap foreign steel.
It’s another example of this Government using its so-called ‘Brexit freedom’ to throw British business under the bus. Last week it was agriculture, with an Australian trade deal undercutting British farmers and food standards, and this week it’s steel.
I’ve urged Boris Johnson to think again and move quickly move to bring in new legislation which allows us to safeguard UK steel production, protecting in Sheffield, Yorkshire and across the country.