UK Steel eyes EU-UK safeguard exemption after Brexit

Trade association UK Steel will ask Eurofer to lobby the European Commission to support mutual exemption from one another’s safeguard measures by the EU and UK.

The UK will exit the customs union at the end of 2020 and its government has committed to introducing its own safeguard measures. Given the European Commission is staying tight-lipped on this issue, UK Steel hopes that a first move by the UK government, supported by Eurofer, could get the Commission talking. It may otherwise soon be too late to give the necessary certainty to the market, and this could lead to quotas and tariffs being imposed between the UK and EU.

“It is no one’s interests to see unnecessary disruption to steel trade between the EU and UK at the end of this year,” UK Steel director Gareth Stace tells Kallanish. “A mutual exemption, or the certainty of TRQs for each other, could be agreed to now, and would provide steel producers and customers alike on both sides of the Channel the certainty to continue to buy and sell without the fear of tariffs come 2021. This is the best outcome for all.”

European steelmakers believe the EU’s proposed safeguard review has not gone nearly far enough to protect the bloc’s local industry from the increased threat of imports resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. Non-EU suppliers are seen targeting the bloc once the economy recovers. “Global stocks are high and this metal will soon be looking for a market opportunity at any cost. Even if that is at the cost of European steel plants,” Stace said following last week’s Eurofer board meeting.

UK Steel’s quarterly meeting of its ‘Product Groups’ Committee also met last week. Across the board, companies reported unprecedented falls in demand across the vast majority of consuming sectors – most notably construction and automotive – from March onwards. “Whilst there are some signs of a small pick-up in recovery in June, in line with the construction and manufacturing PMIs rising above 50 again, most expected the recovery to be a slow return to normal demand levels,” UK Steel said.