Steel bosses today hailed a disruption in trade rules aimed at protecting the industry from cheap foreign imports.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss agreed to a recommendation to remove nine of 19 measures aimed at defending the industry against a flood of imported metals dumped on the global market.
But she has announced new guarantees to help the £ 2bn industry compete with overseas rivals.
Ms Truss said the government would introduce a ‘public notice’ to do more to protect UK businesses.
“The public notice will outline the details of the temporary extension of five more of the 19 steel products for one year,” she said.
“Imports outside the quotas will be subject to a 25% tariff.”
Experts believed the unexpected move would support the industry as it tries to cut emissions – and avoid layoffs.
UK Steel Managing Director Gareth Stace said: “Government interventions will prevent an anticipated surge of overseas steel from flooding our market that would have cost jobs, investment and our ability to decarbonize as a sector, threatening the UK’s road to net-zero.
“Removing steel import restrictions would have cost the industry hundreds of millions a year, due to increased import penetration and reduced market share for UK producers.
“This cost would be equivalent to 50% of the annual capital investment of steel producers, or 2,500 employees, or 8% of total employment in the sector.
Mr Stace said the “bold move” “would preserve the industry’s ability to innovate, modernize and decarbonize”.
But he added: “It is vital that we now work with partners like the EU and the US to address the underlying issues that are destabilizing global steel markets.
“Warranties are not a long-term solution, and the ultimate goal here is a global steel market where we all follow the same rules.
“The steel industry will continue to work with the government to create the best possible investment environment for modern steel production in the UK. A steel program is a program for a UK that levels and decarbonizes. “
Shadow Trade Secretary Emily Thornberry said: “This is an extremely welcome turnaround on the part of the government, which will repair the vast majority of the damage that would have been done had it persisted in the planned removal of these guarantees. “
Welsh Government’s Economy Minister Vaughan Gething said:e The one-hour decision to listen to our concerns and those of the Industry, while extending these vital guarantees for one year, is welcome.
“The steel industry has a long and proud history in the industrial landscape of Wales and it remains a vital part of our economy. The Welsh government is committed to ensuring a sustainable future for the steel industry in Wales.
Protections were introduced by the EU in 2018 when the UK was part of Brussels trade rules, in retaliation for US taxes imposed on steel imports.
EU measures continued in Britain until January, when the Brexit transition ended.
The measures were extended until June, but the UK’s Trade Remedies Investigations Directorate recommended they be relaxed – a move backed by the Trade Remedies Authority and followed by Ms Truss.
The UK regime has set duty-free quotas for a range of steel products based on 2015-2017 import levels.
It was only when fulfilled that customs duties applied to any additional imports over a period of three months.