Unite: Lack of UK exemption from US steel tariffs highlights need for customs union with EU

The government’s “abject failure” to prevent the US imposing job destroying tariffs on Britain’s steel and aluminium industry shows why the UK needs to be in a customs union with the EU, Unite has said.

The warning came after the Trump administration yesterday (May 31) ended an exemption from tariffs on UK and European steel.

Unite national officer for steel, Tony Brady, said: “The fact the UK government has failed to secure any prospect of an exemption for UK steel from the US administration should be an eye opener for those who pin their hopes on the ‘special relationship’ delivering a boost for British industry in a post-Brexit world.

“This abject failure shows why we need to remain in a customs union. The European Union remains the only trading bloc with the power to secure a negotiated full and ongoing exemption and is the only one not to have capitulated to the Trump administration.”

Calling for a global solution to a global problem, Unite warned that a trade war over steel and aluminium must not escalate into ‘tit for tat’ or encompass the car industry.

Brady said: “US steel tariffs are a blunt short sighted instrument that will do nothing to address the underlying problem of global over capacity and the secondary dumping of steel from countries, such as China and Indonesia.

“Those countries that have been dumping steel and aluminium are the villains, not countries, such as the UK or Canada which play by the rules.

“A ‘tit for tat’ trade war is in no one’s interest. Steel tariffs will only serve to harm manufacturing and steel making communities either side of the Atlantic and could escalate into other sectors such as automotive where the Trump administration has launched an investigation into car, truck and component imports.

“While politically motivated, a US-inspired tariff war in the automotive sector would disrupt the US-UK trading relationship and jeopardise decent well paid manufacturing jobs.

“The UK government cannot continue to be bystander as the threat of a job destroying trade war increases. Unite is in regular dialogue with our sister union United Steelworkers in the US and Canada through Workers Uniting and steel unions in Europe via industriALL.

“We recognise that the global problem needs a global solution. UK ministers must engage fully with the European Union and play a leading role in securing a negotiated solution to the global overcapacity of steel before it escalates into a wider trade war.”