Steel campaigners have warned the Tories are “betraying” the industry with plans to scrap Britain’s trade defences.
The Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Bill will axe protections against Chinese dumping which triggered a collapse in the global metal price, hammering British jobs, experts warn.
They fear it will make it impossible for the UK to defend the fragile sector from ruthless competitors by slapping tariffs on cheap foreign imports.
Union members have written to Chancellor Philip Hammond as MPs prepare for the Bill’s second reading in the Commons today.
Labour MP Stephen Kinnock believed the legislation “would strip away the protective anti-dumping shield which comes with EU membership, which was pivotal in holding back the tide of illegally dumped Chinese steel that almost crippled the British and global steel industry back in 2015/16”.
Accusing ministers of delivering “a kick in the teeth for British steelworkers”, Mr Kinnock, whose South Wales constituency includes the country’s biggest plant, Port Talbot, added: “The Government seems to be set on using Brexit as an excuse for deregulation, and for destroying our ability to defend our steel and other key manufacturing industries.
“The Tories, blinded by their hardline extreme ideology, want to remove almost all means of defending British industry and steelworkers.
“British steelworkers make the best steel that money can buy.
“They don’t need special treatment, and they’re not asking for it.
“But they are asking for the chance to compete on a level playing field because free trade can only work if everyone plays by the rules, and if it is possible to act against foreign governments who aren’t playing fair.
“This means we must have the safety valve of trade defence instruments, so that we can defend ourselves against attacks from the Chinese and others who are undermining British industry by dumping steel and many other products.”
Steelworkers from firms including Tata Steel, British Steel and Celsa have written to Mr Hammond saying they are “seriously concerned at the effect the Bill might have on our industry and our communities”.
The letter, signed by 16 members of the Community union’s steel committee and seen by the Mirror, says: “It is our members’ livelihoods that will be threatened if this piece of legislation does not serve to protect our industry from the ongoing and existential threat that is the dumping of unfairly priced and state-subsidised steel into our markets.”
It adds: “The UK cannot be seen as a soft touch when it comes to dumping.
“We know that competitors in the EU and the US will continue to take robust action against dumping. The UK must prove it is ready to do the same.
“We must give ourselves every available tool to protect ourselves from unfair trade, or else we will have no industry left.”