SNP fear for future of Scottish steel plants post-Brexit

The future of Scotland's remaining steel plans could be at risk if the UK does not match EU industry protections post-Brexit, the SNP has warned.

The Dalzell steel works were closed in 2015 but reopened the following year once a new buyer was found. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL

The party has called on the UK Government to heed the warnings of UK Steel and not risk exposing the British market to the dumping of Chinese steel – threatening thousands of jobs across the country, including the Dalzell and Clydebridge plants which were saved from closure last year.

The European Commission announced earlier this year that it was increasing import tariffs on Chinese steel. But Nationalists fear that if the UK Government fails to reach an agreement with the EU and a so-called hard Brexi takes place, these protections could be compromised.

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UK Steel this week called for Westminster to match the EU’s tough stance on Chinese imports, claiming that jobs would otherwise be at risk.

The Dalzell Steel plant was formally reopened in September 2016. Picture: Alan Watson

UK Steel chief executive Gareth Stace urged ministers to impose a regime that “prevents Government-financed products being illegally dumped”.

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Clare Adamson, SNP MSP for Motherwell and Wishaw and a former member of the Scottish Steel Taskforce which helped secure new owners for Dalzell and Clydebridge, said: “These are serious warnings from the leading industry body about the future of our steel industry.

“Just last year the Scottish Government took decisive action to save the Dalzell Plant in Motherwell, to protect jobs in Scotland’s steel industry – yet now we have a new threat because of the Tories’ reckless Brexit obsession.

The Dalzell Steel plant was formally reopened in September 2016. Picture: Alan Watson

“As UK Steel’s warnings make clear, an extreme Tory Brexit – out of the single market and customs union – would diminish vital protections and put at risk jobs in my constituency and across the country.

“Falling back on WTO rules alone could risk a return to the dumping of Chinese steel that threatened our plants in the first place.

“The European Commission has committed to protecting our steel industry from cheap imports – it’s vital that the UK government does likewise, and stands up for our jobs and communities by committing to single market membership after Brexit.”

A UK Government spokeswoman said: “We are working towards a comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU, at the same time we are also preparing for the UK to determine its own trade policies.

“The new Trade Bill published this week will help establish a UK Trade Remedies Authority to protect against unfair trade practices or unforeseen and injurious surges in imports, ensuring all businesses in the UK, including those in Scotland can trade on a level playing field and defending against injury to the UK’s domestic industries.

“We have examined several other countries’ trade remedy authorities to ensure we learn from best practice and develop a system with the capability and capacity to deliver effectively from day one of our exit from the EU.”