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Parliamentary reporter @TrinderMatt
LABOUR is to stage a Commons vote today to kill off plans to end protections for British steel, after the government was accused of dealing a hammer blow to the struggling industry.
The party warned that the sector could be exposed to a flood of cheap imports after the Trade Remedies Authority (TRA) — an arm’s length government body — recommended that Trade Secretary Liz Truss end protections inherited from the European Union.
Labour hopes its motion, calling for emergency legislation to extend the safeguards, will be backed by Tory backbenchers in former “red wall” seats keen to protect an industry that directly employs 33,700 people in Britain.
Gareth Stace, the director general UK Steel, the trade association for the British steel industry, said: “The TRA’s decision is a hammer blow.
“The government is squandering the opportunity to make Brexit work for domestic industry — it is levelling down our steel sector.”
The EU introduced limits on imports in 2019 after former US president Donald Trump imposed tariffs on Chinese steel, prompting fears of a surplus impacting Europe.
When Britain left the EU, the limits were carried over, but they will lapse at the end of this month. The EU has already confirmed it will extend its protections until June 2024.
It comes after British farmers said ministers had betrayed them over a free-trade deal struck with Australia last week, amid concerns over a deluge of cheaper lower-quality meat imports.
Ahead of today’s vote, shadow international trade secretary Emily Thornberry said the government was “on the verge of selling out Britain’s steel industry.
“Any MP who represents a steel community should vote for this motion. Any MP who cares about the UK’s economy, our industries, our critical infrastructure, our national security, and protecting the tens of thousands of jobs that depend on steel should vote for this motion.
“The Tories have already betrayed British farmers and now they are preparing to do the same to British steelworkers. We cannot let that happen.”
A government spokesperson said: “The TRA is a non-departmental public body and all its decisions are based on a thorough analysis of the evidence.
“The Trade Secretary’s decision will be published before the measure is due to expire on June 30.”
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