IN AN unprecedented show of unity, First Minister Carwyn Jones, UK Steel, Tata Steel, CELSA and business secretary Sajid Javid have all spoken out to say a Remain vote on June 23 is the best way to secure a future for steel in Wales – this comes after major trade unions issues a joint letter saying our industry is stronger in Europe.
Both Tata and CELSA have sent joint letters to their staff, highlighting the importance of continued access to the single market – as well as the risks of a Leave vote. Celsa – which sends 100% of its exports to Europe – sent the letter to workers today. Its letter said:
“The European Union, and EU regulations, are not the real problem for British steel manufacturers. Certainly, the time it takes for combined action to happen is frustrating and needs reform but if Britain were to leave the EU, the UK would have less influence on efforts to support our industry and put an end to anti-competitive practices around the world. The total annual steel consumption in the UK is the equivalent of 5 days’ manufacture in China. UK steel output is far less than 1% of world demand. In our sector, we have to work closely with other countries to make a combined voice heard rather than trying to do things on our own.
“The key issues that we face continue to be getting access to competitive electricity costs, and making the whole supply chain appreciate the benefits of the circular economy and sourcing responsibly. We are fighting to resolve these issues but they are not going to be solved by leaving the EU. In fact, for reasons of economic uncertainty, they may well get more difficult to address.
“Leaving the European Union will create this period of economic uncertainty and poses a significant threat to the steel industry, our business and the thousands of livelihoods that rely on CELSA.”
Tata highlighted the importance of EU money for research and development projects, as well as environmental protection. It’s message to staff last week said:
“The European Union influences very important aspects of Tata Steel’s business in the UK. The EU is by far our largest export market, with over a third of our UK steel heading there. And that’s not including the steel that goes via our customers – the EU is a critical export market for the UK’s car makers for example. So access to that market is fundamental to our business.”
“These include critical regulations that impact our business – environmental controls and anti-dumping rules to name but two. But if the UK were to exit the EU and we set these rules ourselves, it is likely we would still need to adhere to EU rules to enter that market. The difference: we would no longer have a say in how they are set up or applied.”
This message of support for a Wales that does business in Europe, rather than shutting up shop, has been backed by leading figures in both Cardiff Bay and Westminster.
First Minister Carwyn Jones said:
“Steel is part of us in Wales – it is vital to many communities and is a key part of our economy. And when I take Wales to the world, I am proud to point to the skill and commitment of our steel workers, as well as the ease of selling into the single market of 500 million people.
“But these are difficult times for the industry – obviously, the dumping of cheap imported steel onto the market is a huge challenge – and you do not solve that by walking away.
“By working with our neighbours, we can take action against unfair trading practices and maintain access to the key markets we need to build a sustainable future.
“A vote to leave will mean less power to negotiate, the introduction of tariffs and a shrinking share of the global market for British steel. That’s not what I want for Wales.”
Business Secretary Sajid Javid recently said:
"There's no doubt that Brexit will worsen the challenge the UK steel industry already faces.
"Potential bidders for Port Talbot could disappear following a vote to Leave. It will be a huge blow to the sales process."
Gareth Stace, director of UK Steel, delivered a devastating critique of the arguments offered by Leave campaigners who have cynically looked to distort the facts around the steel crisis for their own gains.
Mr Stace said the European Union offered the most realistic chance of action being taken to stop unfair trading practices by producers including China, and urged the UK government to allow stricter tariffs and take action to reduce energy bills. He added:
“The future health and competitiveness of the British steel sector is heavily dependent on remaining within the European Union. It is highly concerning to hear the myths being peddled by those who wish to leave the EU, opportunistically seizing on the crisis facing our sector. The EU is by far the largest market for steel outside of the UK and common sense dictates that it would be folly to break that link w.hile the sector is battling for survival.”
These statements follow a joint letter signed by Wales Stronger In Europe chair Geraint Talfan Davies; Rob Edwards, Welsh lead organiser for Community Union; Andy Richards, secretary of Unite Wales; and Brian Rye, General Secretary Pro Tem of UCATT. This set out the case for a Welsh steel industry that is stronger in Europe, saying:
“This is not the time to pull up the drawbridge. We must work together with our neighbours to get through this difficult time.”
The European Union currently has a record 37 anti-dumping measures in place, 16 of which specifically target China.
The European Parliament also recently voted against granting Market Economy Status – a key move in securing a future for Welsh steel.