The steel works in Port Talbot, which Tata is looking to sell [Image: Andrew Matthews/PA].

The steel works in Port Talbot, which Tata is looking to sell [Image: Andrew Matthews/PA].

Stephen Kinnock wrote this article in March, after he returned from negotiations with the directors of Tata Steel in Mumbai, over the future of the steel works in his constituency of Port Talbot.

One can only wish Sadiq Khan had taken a leaf from Mr Kinnock’s book.

The Port Talbot MP delivers a strong argument against leaving the EU, but also points out the absolute ham-headed stupidity of linking up with any Conservatives to campaign for the UK to ‘Remain’.

What follows is a long discussion, so I have highlighted particularly strong passages.

I have been infuriated by the spectacle of the leave campaigns cynically attempting to hijack and exploit [the Tata steel] crisis for their own advantage.

Their central argument seems to rest on the absurd claim is that if only the UK were to leave the EU, then we would be able to protect the British steel industry.

The reality is that the European commission has been trying to tackle the steel crisis for years now, but has consistently been hamstrung by a British government fighting tooth and nail to undermine those efforts.

The government is not only actively working against the commission’s attempts to toughen up its anti-dumping measures, where it has been the ringleader of a backroom campaign against trade defence reform, it is also lobbying hard for China to be granted market economy status (MES). MES would mean the World Trade Organisation would consider China to be a market economy, and we would therefore be unable to impose effective tariffs on dumped steel from the 80%-state-owned Chinese steel industry.

Ever since 2010 when the prime minister declared he would “make the case for China to get market economy status”, he and George Osborne have been Beijing’s chief cheerleaders in Europe. Cameron and Osborne know that the granting of MES would dramatically reduce the European commission’s ability to impose tariffs on dumped Chinese steel.

These are not party-political points. These are the views of the steel industry itself. It has repeatedly urged the government to act, and to stop promoting China’s cause in Europe.

But it is not just on MES and trade defence instruments that the government has undermined the ability of the EU to help the steel industry. The Conservatives’ ideological opposition to accessing the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) has removed our ability to help those steelworkers who have been made redundant.

The EGF is designed to help national governments with regeneration following redundancies and global shocks. Britain is the only major EU member state never to have accessed the fund.

The Treasury has made it clear that it would block any application to the EGF on behalf of steelworkers. Let that sink in for a minute: George Osborne is blocking moves to apply for ring-fenced EU finance to help retrain and re-skill workers, and to invest in Port Talbot.

The EU accounts for over half our steel exports. A Brexit based on the so-called “Canada model” would mean paying hefty tariffs on every tonne of steel that we sell into the EU, which would surely be a killer blow for an industry that is already struggling to compete. And we would not only be hit by tariffs, we would also lose access to the 53 countries that have a trade deal with the EU.

Or perhaps the leave campaigns think that a Brexit based on the so-called Norway model would solve the steel crisis? Well, the Norway model would enable us to continue tariff-free trade with the EU, but that just leaves you having to accept EU directives and regulations without being in the room when they are being shaped. This could cause considerable problems for the steel industry, as it would have to accept new and evolving legislation, without having had any opportunity to influence its development in Brussels.

The chaos and uncertainty that would be unleashed by Brexit also weighs heavily on the UK steel industry. What impact would Brexit have on the order book? Will it be a Canada or a Norway model? Could Brexit open up the floodgates to Chinese dumping even further, as we will be out on our own, lacking the leverage and shelter that being part of a trading bloc of 500 million people brings?

I … hope that the leave campaigns will now stop peddling mistruths and start facing up to the fact that we are in this crisis not because of Europe, but because of a Tory government that has singularly failed to stand up for British steel.

Source: As MP for Port Talbot, I believe Brexit would be disastrous for British steel | Stephen Kinnock | Opinion | The Guardian

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