Christina Rees has praised steel workers in Neath for helping to force a last-minute UK Government u-turn on Wednesday over the removal of safeguard tariffs on cheap imports of steel.
Based on recommendations from the independent Trade Remedies Authority, the UK Government was set to remove nine of the 19 current import safeguards on different steel products at midnight on 30th June. At a time when other countries were renewing their safeguards, that raised fears that the UK market would be flooded with cheap steel imports, threatening the viability of UK steel production.
Workers at Port Talbot, the plant most local to Neath, had joined thousands more across the country in demanding the retention of the safeguards, and Christina Rees helped lead opposition to the UK Government’s plans in Parliament. On 21st June, Christina spoke in a debate forced by the Labour Party, and told government ministers:
“The steel industry is vital to our economy and the idea that it doesn’t have a future is unthinkable. Our steelworkers are as robust as the steel that they produce, they’ve bounced back from every adversity they’ve encountered.
“But the situation is about to get much worse. As the industry faces a potentially catastrophic existential threat. Under current legislation, the Secretary of State can accept the TRA recommendations and we lose 9 safeguards. Or reject them and we lose all 19. This is wrong.”
With five hours to go until the deadline on 30th June, the government announced that the five most important safeguards under threat would be extended for a further year, and that the decision-making powers of the Trade Remedies Authority would be reviewed.
Responding to the announcement, Christina Rees said:
“This is a huge victory for local steel workers who have campaigned so hard over the last month against the removal of these safeguards. Their efforts helped me and other MPs to make the case in Parliament, force the UK Government to change its plans, and keep these protections in place.
“But the fight does not stop here. As a first step, I will be demanding as part of the UK Government’s review that the Trade Remedies Authority is reformed to represent the views of workers and industry, and consider the impact of its decisions on communities like ours.
“And second, we may have stopped the immediate threat from cheap imports, but we have to do more than that to protect the future of the British steel industry. We need a long-term plan for investment and modernisation, making the UK a world leader in low carbon steel production and putting British-made steel at the heart of every major infrastructure project in our country.”