Steel is just the first casualty of this Government’s recklessness. If we do not change course, others will follow.
The crisis engulfing the UK steel industry this week is a disaster for our country and especially for all those people whose livelihoods depend on it. Up to 40,000 jobs are thought to be at risk if Tata Steel goes ahead with plans to halt its entire UK steel production.
To see an industry with such a proud history and of such continued importance to our national interest on its knees is a tragedy. But it is a tragedy of this Government’s own making.
It is now widely reported that the final straw for the firm was the UK Government’s refusal to stand up to China and support the EU attempt to secure higher anti-dumping tariffs. Without these restrictions there is nothing to stop China flooding our country with cheap, shoddily-produced steel, and that is exactly what we are seeing.
How can British enterprise expect to compete fairly when the Government is allowing them to be priced out by Chinese companies which are subsidised by the state and whose costs are kept low by appalling wages and conditions for Chinese workers?
George Osborne’s spineless subservience to China is costing our country dearly and the steel industry will not be the only casualty if things don’t change soon. I’ve spoken repeatedly in Parliament about the threat to our ceramics industry if China is granted Market Economy Status at the end of this year. Yet while the EU Parliament is fighting to secure stronger restrictions on Chinese imports, the UK Government is supporting the bid at the expense of our own industry.
We must change course now to save British industry. The Government must now do whatever is necessary to prevent the collapse of the UK steel industry, by direct intervention if necessary. And we must support the EU’s efforts to create a level playing field with China and halt the unfair trade practices that are putting our economy at risk.
The way that we respond to this crisis may dictate the course of British industry for years to come, and there is so much more than steel at stake.