Boris ignores OWN Brexit advisers to extend EU rules in bid to avert UK steel crisis

Liberty Steel: Boris Johnson discusses British steel industry

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The safeguards on 19 pieces were first rolled by Brussels in 2019, while the UK was still a member of the club. They were a response to then-US President Donald Trump’s decision to slap tariffs on steel from China and elsewhere. The move by the America first president sparked fears the market would be flooded with cheap steel.

The protections for 15 of the 19 steel products had originally been due to expire on June 30.

But Mr Johnson has decided to launch a temporary extension.

The newly set-up Trade Remedies Authority had advised the government to retain quotas and tariffs for 10 categories of steel for three years.

The group concluded that it would be best for the tariffs on the remaining nine products to be revoked.

Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, said ministers only had the option of accepting or rejecting the recommendation in full.

She said the Government would now introduce a public notice to launch a temporary extension on a further five of the 19 steel products for one year.

She said: “Imports outside the quotas will face a tariff of 25 percent.”

The UK steel industry generates about $2billion (£1.44billion) in turnover each year.

Bosses had warned the Government not to remove any of the EU’s so-called safeguard measures, saying it could spur a flood of imports.

Ms Truss said the extension would give the industry time to appeal the TRA decision.

She said that the UK would also review the Trade Remedies framework, a post-Brexit UK-specific system that is designed to protect sectors against unfair trading practices.

She explained: “The Trade Remedies framework was first introduced in 2018 under the previous Government.

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“The current government will review it to ensure it is up-to-date, champions WTO rules and is fit for purpose in the post-Covid world.”

The Government’s move was welcomed by unions and steel industry figures.

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said the intervention of Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng buys the steel industry some breathing space.

Mr Turner added: “However, the can has just been kicked down the road.

“In another year’s time, the threat of cheap imports destroying UK jobs will be back again.

“UK steel can’t keep limping from crisis to crisis like this.

“We urgently need a plan and Government support to bring some stability and security to this strategically vital sector.”

UK Steel director-general Gareth Stace praised the Prime Minister, saying the move appeared to ring true to his promise to “take back control” after Brexit.

Mr Stace said the decision to extend the tariffs would avoid “a retreat from investment in our steelmaking, a reduction in the well-paid jobs that are part of the social fabric across the country and hampering any progress for Government of levelling up.”

He said ministers had clearly demonstrated their “commitment to the steel sector, by bringing forward emergency measures to ensure free and fair trade is maintained.”

He added: “The Government’s interventions will prevent an anticipated wave of overseas steel flooding our market, that would have cost jobs, investment, and our ability to decarbonise as a sector, threatening the UK’s road to net-zero.”

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