The controversy over a future deal or no deal between the EU and UK in the wake of Brexit could lead to major disruption in steel exports from Britain after 1 January, says Gareth Stace, director general of steel federation UK Steel.
The EU is the biggest market for British steel exports, accounting for some 2.5 million tonnes/year, which is 30% of the entire UK steel production. “We still don’t know how we will have to trade with the EU – with new rules or the WTO terms coming after 1 January,” Stace said at the Kallanish Europe Steel Markets 2020 virtual conference on Thursday.
There will be standard customs border checks from January, which are likely to provoke huge delays and additional paper work on both the UK and EU side. “We anticipate that it will mean a 4-5% increase to the cost of supplying steel to our client in Europe,” Stace said. He is nevertheless convinced there will be no standard customs tariffs on steel, no matter whether a Brexit deal is agreed or not.
“The treatment of the UK from the EU as a third country is in fact the same, as for any countries outside the European Union,” he said. “The UK has received a country specific quota, but on the condition that the total volume does not change. The EU cannot discriminate other states and give Great Britain preferential treatment, which for example China, Russia and other countries don’t have.”
Stace reiterated his earlier hope that the UK and EU would exempt each other from safeguards, saying that “…would be a win-win situation for both.”