Boris Johnson’s administration may scrap EU rules which have seen shipbuilding contracts sent to yards overseas in recent years, according to reports.
Once the world’s premier shipbuilding hub, the United Kingdom has for many years been losing out not just to much larger low-wage and low-safety economies like China, but also to advanced and relatively small countries like South Korea.
Brexit campaigners have long argued that this decline is due in no small part to EU competition and tendering laws, which prohibit the government from supporting shipbuilding by reserving anything but “sensitive” warship contracts for domestic firms.
For example, a much-delayed £1.5 billion contract to build Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels has been exposed to bids from Italian, Spanish, Japanese, and South Korean yards, with the government’s Ministry of Defence confirming foreign firms could offer their services in August — causing much controversy.
HOW a legal mystery reveals the continuing EU threat to British shipbuilding – even after Brexit.
Please SHARE and make this known to your MP!https://t.co/GU1ZmXO4F5
— Veterans for Britain (@VeteransBritain) September 24, 2020
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has signalled that this ‘Britain Last’ approach may finally be coming to an end as Britain informal membership of the European Union is set to expire at the end of 2020, however.
“We aren’t embarrassed to sing old songs about how Britannia rules the waves – in fact, we are even making sense of it with a concerted national shipbuilding strategy that will bring jobs to every part of the UK, especially in Scotland,” he teased at last week’s Conservative Party conference.
On Saturday, a Ministry of Defence (MoD) source confirmed to The Telegraph that “Defence is committed to supporting the Government’s ambition to reinvigorate UK shipbuilding. As we approach the end of the transition period, the MoD is exploring opportunities to better tailor the regulations to meet our needs, although no decisions have been made.”
This is seemingly in response to Brexit supporters such as David Jones MP having warned that “Despite the intention to do more British shipbuilding, HMG [Her Majesty’s Government] could have a nasty surprise in the courts if they do not amend retained EU law on defence procurement which makes UK-limited procurement more difficult.”
The Veterans for Britain campaign group, which supported Brexit in 2016 and spoken out against the impact of EU law on British shipbuilding for years now, gave the seeming change in attitude from the government a cautious welcome.
“At long last, Government admits it is EU rules which send shipbuilding contracts abroad,” they commented.
“[T]hese could change in 2021, savings [sic] thousands of jobs and billions in investment.”
On Tuesday the Prime Minister talked about shipbuilding and jobs during his conference speech. A great acheivement for our campaign. This is the story so far. Sound up for Boris at the end. https://t.co/qUCpwYgw1i #letsholdhimtoit pic.twitter.com/1kMWZluB8D
— Keep Britain Afloat (@britainafloat) October 8, 2020