The EU Slags Off British Steel

British steel
Matt Cardy/Getty Images

David Cameron’s recent so-called ‘deal’ in Brussels has led to the heralding of a ‘special status’ for Britain. Unfortunately for the Prime Minister, Britain already seems to have a special status within Europe — one which is wholly negative and is not the best option for the country.

There have been many calls in recent months for the British government to step in and save our steel industry, in an attempt to prevent the hundreds of job losses in Redcar and Port Talbot. Repeatedly they have trotted out the line – “There is, regrettably, nothing we can do”. However, this is simply not true – and the government doesn’t seem to care!

The crisis could be resolved quickly; but the government’s hands are tied behind their backs by the European Union (EU), which in most circumstances prohibits EU Member States from stepping in to help their own industries.

Apart from one, of course — it seems no one ever thought to include Germany in this!

How can Germany get away with massive subsidies for its own steel and automotive industries? Sir Bill Cash recognised this recently in the House of Commons, but our own government does not pay any heed to his words.

Prime Minister David Cameron simply doesn’t seem to care about Britain, while he is committed to seeing it remain in an ever centralising EU. The German government however, underwrites loans, pays for research and development, as well as financing training for many of Germany’s steel workers. Why don’t we?

All of this is only borderline legal under EU law, yet the German government always seems to get away with manipulating things for Germany’s benefit while avoiding all the EU legal difficulties. They repeatedly engage in practices which actively contravene European law. They invest heavily in green energy — as Britain does — in order to meet EU targets on carbon emissions, but strangely enough their steel and car industries have very low energy prices compared to the rest of the EU.

How does Germany make this work? By undercutting all other EU Member State’s industries. It shifts the energy burden onto own its citizens, forcing them to bear the additional costs of the failed green energy project. At the same time Germany lets their most energy-intensive companies dodge green tariffs, giving them a huge competitive advantage against other EU Member States.

They don’t care about it being questionable under EU law. This just contributes to what Brussels calls “the industrial massacre of Europe”, with rising energy costs pushing businesses to the brink and beyond — entirely caused by Brussels. Yet Germany puts the punishing burden on its own people and continues to dominate European industry.

The European Commission refuses to investigate the issue, so Germany escapes this massacre, dominating the automotive industry — subsidising it by 10 times per vehicle more than Britain does — undercutting all their competitors in Europe.  Meanwhile, British steel is being crushed under German boots and Cameron still claims nothing can be done, and clearly nothing can while we remain a member of the EU! Cameron did not even try and include this in his so-called ‘deal’.

European law is clear, unless certain exceptions are applied — of which Germany takes advantage — then State Aid is illegal. When negotiating his ‘deal’ with the EU, Cameron could have used the very same exceptions to protect British steel and our other heavy industries. Instead our Prime Minister brought back a minimal deal and he is now trying to trick the Great British Public into staying in a so-called reformed EU!

The only thing the EU has allowed Cameron to do for the steel industry is a tiny compensation package for the workers of Redcar who have all lost their jobs. Meanwhile, Germany pumps millions of euros a year into its own steel and automotive industry.

The EU has told Cameron there will be no chance of any more reforms to “accommodate” Britain. Even if he belatedly decided to try and save this vital British industry, the EU won’t allow him to!

Far from helping British jobs and British industry, our membership of the EU drags us down. It is incompatible with our traditional manufacturing base and it’s clear it will march onwards with a permanent ‘one rule for Germany via Brussels, and one rule for the United Kingdom’.

Cameron has failed Britain and he must never be allowed to forget it. To protect Great Britain, British jobs and industry, we must Get Britain Out of the EU.

Ryan Fiske is a Research Executive at Get Britain Out.


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