Leaving the EU has the potential to cause a great deal of damage to exports, weakening an already troubled sector
• Gareth Stace is director general of the trade association UK Steel
The difficulties facing British Steel have quickly become part of the Brexit debate, with commentators variously pointing to our membership of the EU or our decision to leave as an underlying cause. Business is naturally cautious about entering into political debates, but it should not remain silent when it features so prominently in the public discourse. Industry has a responsibility to ensure its views are accurately represented and to establish the facts as they relate to our sector.
There can be no doubt that the ongoing Brexit uncertainty has contributed significantly to British Steel’s problems. Unable to decipher what the UK/EU trading relationship will be in just five months’ time, planning has become fiendishly complicated for both UK exporters and their EU customers. The timing is particularly bad, with the EU having recently imposed “safeguard” measures to prevent a surge in steel imports resulting from protectionist action elsewhere. Post-Brexit, UK steel exports to Europe will be restricted by these measures, with a disorderly no-deal Brexit affecting them particularly badly.