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Leaving the EU: UK Steel Sector

Volume 654: debated on Thursday 7 February 2019

8. What steps he is taking to ensure that the UK steel sector can continue to trade without disruption after the UK leaves the EU. (909092)

We are working closely with the UK steel sector to provide as much continuity as possible in trading arrangements after we leave the EU. This includes establishing the Trade Remedies Authority to help to prevent unfair trading practices and identifying more than half a billion pounds’-worth of opportunities for UK steel producers.

When the all-party group on steel met key voices in the industry this week, it was made clear that there is a real lack of engagement from the Government on steel safeguard measures for the UK market in a no-deal scenario. Will the Minister commit to meet UK Steel urgently to discuss this critical detail for an industry that contributes £1.6 billion to the economy?

I do not recognise that description; the Government are indeed involved in talks with the industry about safeguards. The hon. Lady will know that the best way to avoid the problems she identifies is to support the Prime Minister’s deal. Those who keep talking about the pitfalls of no deal but keep voting against a deal are making those pitfalls more likely.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that our future trade policies must protect UK businesses, including in the steel sector, against unfair competition from abroad? It cannot be right for Parliament to expect our businesses to respect high standards on the environment, workplace or welfare and then compete freely with businesses abroad that do not.

That is exactly why, in the Trade Bill, the Government introduced the Trade Remedies Authority to ensure that we have protections against unfair global competition in future. It seems absolutely inexplicable that the Labour party keeps talking about protections but voted against the Trade Bill and the establishment of the Trade Remedies Authority.

Currently, 15% of steel export consignments are subject to tariffs; in the event of no deal, 97% of export consignments would be subject to tariffs. If one considers non-tariff barriers and domestic concerns—the shortage of warehousing was reported yesterday—is this not the time to support an extension of article 50 and to reach out and get a real compromise and an acceptable deal? Otherwise, the Conservatives risk being seen as the party prepared to sacrifice the steel industry on the altar of right-wing ideology.

What the time is right for is reaching an agreement with the European Union, as the Prime Minister has set out, that will give us that certainty. Those who consistently vote against that deal are the ones putting industries at risk.

The very fact that the Secretary of State is even considering zero import tariffs threatens the survival of our steel, ceramics and tyre industries. There will be no incentive for our partners to negotiate new trade deals, or to renegotiate existing ones, as the Secretary of State will have given away the shop before negotiations start. Thousands of workers whose jobs will have gone will no longer be the consumers he says will take advantage of cheap imports. When is he going to admit he is wrong?

The Government have made no decision on this. When we do so, we will communicate it to stakeholders, the public and Parliament. Of course, the best way to avoid any of this scenario is for us to have a deal with the European Union. Whipping up fear over people’s jobs is simply the humbug that has become the hon. Gentleman’s hallmark.