Ahead of key trade talks, MEP calls for more protection for the UK steel industry

UK business secretary, Sajid Javid, visits Brussels today for key talks with the EU Commission on the ongoing steel industry crisis.

By William Louch

28 Oct 2015

UK business secretary, Sajid Javid, has called for an emergency EU summit to discuss the ongoing crisis in the steel industry.

Javid arrives in Brussels today to meet with EU trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, EU industry and internal market Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska and European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen to discuss the struggling sector.

MEPs have welcomed Javid's visit, although emphasising the need for a more comprehensive European response.


Linda McAvan, Labour MEP for Yorkshire and Humber, said, "The key issue for the UK steel industry is to have a level playing field for its products. That means joint EU action to stop Chinese steel being dumped on EU markets at below market prices. So it's good that the Secretary of State is now talking to other EU steel producing countries - even if he's left it a bit late in the day. Only by working together in Europe can we bring pressure to bear."

However, McAvan believes the UK government must do more.

She continued, "The government should also be asking the Commission for support for redundant workers and communities in affected areas. EU funds can be made available - like the Global Adjustment Fund (EGF) - but the UK government has chosen not to apply."

The call comes as the steel industry has been rocked by job losses and closures. In recent weeks, the Sahaviriya Steel Industries in Redcar closed with 2200 jobs lost; Caparo Industries went into administration threatening a further 1700 jobs and over 900 jobs were lost at the Tata steel works in Scunthorpe.

The EU is the second largest producer of steel in the world after China, accounting for 11 per cent of global output.

However, the industry has been strongly affected by high energy prices, falling global demand and competition from low-cost exports from China. The situation is likely to worsen if China is granted market economy status leading to a relaxation of trade rules.

Responding to the crisis, Javid has said, "I want to see steel top of the EU agenda."

"We cannot stand by while the steel industry across Europe, not just in the UK, faces such unprecedented challenges.

"The government wants to work with the EU and our European partners to do all we can to support our steel industry," he added.

The trip comes one day after the announcement that the UK's steel industry is set to make huge savings as a result of new flexibility on EU emission regulations.  

Under the terms of the new deal, certain steel plants will have up to four and a half years to adapt to new emission related regulation, helping them avoid multi-million euro fines it would have faced for failing to comply with the new rules.

The concession, granted following lobbying by the UK, has been welcomed as a step in the right direction by Gareth Stace, director of UK Steel.

He said, "This is a good step in the right direction which will be welcomed by steel companies in Britain. It is one of a series of measures promised by Government that are vital to maintain a viable future for the steel industry in the UK."

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