British Steel: May Lacks the Mettle to Stand Up to the EU

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Ahead of its long-awaited exit from the European Union, Britain’s decaying industry took another huge blow with the announcement that British Steel would be going into liquidation. Having been bought out by GreyBull Capital for the measly sum of £1 in 2016, the company struggled to compete with the gruesome competition of cheap Chinese steel.

Ultimately, the company’s suicide note was signed and dated by the Conservative government who refused to pay the £30 million bail-out. As a result, the country now faces the prospect of losing up to 25,000 jobs in the production and supply of steel. Many argue that the moribund industry’s bankruptcy was inexorable and a bail-out would simply palliate its financial health. Furthermore, the Remain mob were quick to pounce on the opportunity to blame Brexit.

Two ideas which are often conflated are that of the “uncertainty of Brexit” and Brexit itself. The former was caused by the government’s abysmal attempt to negotiate a deal, along with the establishment’s efforts to overturn the democratic vote. The latter is yet to be implemented. 

Nevertheless, the EU’s industrial strategy has been clear from the start. Article 63 of the EU constitution enforces a free movement of capital across the continent. This essentially prevents nation states from implementing policies which would protect its industries from the globalist market. As a result, Western European countries have seen their industries relocate, sold or shut down completely due to the constant pressure of Chinese economic dumping. Without any form of state protectionism, all European industries are prey to the capitalist vultures. 

Many rightly pointed the finger of blame towards the government but for the wrong reason. It must be made clear that May’s cabinet simply could not fork out the £30 million bail-out needed as it did not adhere to EU state aid rules. Indeed, EU law states that all state aid must first be approved by the EU commission. Furthermore, the commission has taken a hardline stance against the production of steel in Europe. In 2016, it demanded a recovery of the 211 million euros the Belgian government had given to its steel industry. The silence from the Remain camp on these matters has truly been deafening. 

The government’s failure was thus its inability to leave the EU on the promised date of the 29thMarch. Incompetence which cost the country dearly when, in April, the government was forced to hand over £120 million to British Steel to foot a carbon emission bill from the EU. This, despite the fact that Britain is one of the lowest carbon emission contributors in all of Europe. 

TATA, the company which sold British Steel in the first place, had spent years closing mills and laying off workers in order to satisfy European regulators ahead of a proposed merger with German firm Thyssenkrupp. Steel workers in Port Talbot even carved up their pensions to try and resurrect their industry.

Evidently, this was a political decision as well an economic one. Thyssenkrupp itself has a seat at the European round table of Industrialists; the architects of the single market and the TTIP agreement. It has been clear from the start that the EU wishes to monpolise the European steel industry in order to fight for a market share globally against cheap Chinese steel; regardless of the devastating repercussions placed on its member states and workers. 

British steel’s collapse is another step in the right direction for the EU’s plan to remove more powers from the nation state. Thus, ensuring capital’s power over labour, corporate rule over democracy and private over public ownership.