British steel handed crucial lifeline as import tariffs extended in Tory U-turn

A large Save Our Steel banner at British Steel, Scunthorpe. (Image: David Haber/scunthorpelive)

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Steel bosses today welcomed a shake-up of trade rules aimed at protecting the industry from cheap foreign imports.

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss accepted a recommendation to axe nine of 19 measures to defend the sector from a flood of imported metal dumped on the world market.

But she announced fresh safeguards to help the £2billion industry compete against overseas rivals.

Ms Truss said the Government would introduce a “public notice” to do more to protect UK companies.

"The public notice will set out the details of the 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%.”

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Experts believed the unexpected move would support the sector as it tries to slash emissions – and prevent redundancies.

UK Steel director-general Gareth Stace said: “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.

“To have removed steel import restrictions would have cost the sector hundreds of millions per year, as a result of increased import penetration and reduced market share for UK producers.

“This cost would be equivalent to 50% of the annual capital investment of steel producers, or 2,500 employees – 8% of the total employment in the sector.”

Mr Stace said the “bold move” would “safeguard the sector’s ability to innovate, modernise and decarbonise”.

File photo of the British Steel plant at Scunthorpe
(Image: Airborne Inspections Ltd / SWNS)

But he added: “It is vital we now work with partners like the EU, and the US to address the underlying issues that are destabilising global steel markets.

“Safeguards are not a long-term solution, and the ultimate goal here is a global market for steel where we all play by the same rules.

“The steel sector will continue to work with the Government in creating the best possible investment environment for modern steel production in the UK. An agenda for steel is an agenda for a UK that is levelling up and decarbonising.”

Shadow Trade Secretary Emily Thornberry said: “This is a hugely welcome U-turn from the Government, which will undo the large majority of the damage that would have resulted had they persisted with their planned removal of these safeguards.”

Protections were introduced by the EU in 2018 when the UK was part of Brussels' trade rules, in retaliation for the US slapping tariffs on steel imports.

The EU measures carried on in Britain until January when the Brexit transition ended.

Measures were extended until June but the UK Trade Remedies Investigations Directorate recommended they were relaxed – a decision backed by the Trade Remedies Authority and followed by Ms Truss.

The British regime set tariff-free quotas for a range of steel products based on 2015-2017 levels of imports.

Only once they were filled were tariffs applied to any extra imports over a three-month period.

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