Jude Kirton-Darling MEP, Labour Member of the European Parliament for the North East of England voted in favour of support for the steel industry across Europe. The report comes at a time when the EU's steel sector is facing tough challenges in light of falling global steel prices. UKIP voted against a deal which would allow more flexible interpretation of state aid rules.
While yesterday saw the closure of SSI Steelworks in Redcar, with the loss of 2,000 direct jobs and thousands of jobs in supply chains, the steel industry remains a vital part of a productive, efficient and competitive manufacturing sector in the UK and the EU. In the UK alone, the steel industry is made up of over 24,000 individual enterprises which directly employ 330,000 people and is worth in excess of 45.5 billion to the UK economy.
However, UK and EU steel production is in danger of disappearing due to high energy prices (30% to 40% higher for the UK sector than in the rest of the world), unfair and anti-competitive practices from some international producers, including additional export and procurement support.
Urgent action is needed to address these issues to ensure further job losses are avoided, as well as encouraging the EU's manufacturing sector to grow again.
In this context, the report before the European Parliament called for a redesign of the current European Union's Emissions Trading System (ETS) system, in order to ensure emissions reductions, while preserving the competitiveness of the EU base metals industry.
Ashley Fox, Conservative, voted against measures which would provide UK steel producers with a level playing field in an increasingly competitive sector.
UKIP, while grandstanding at home on EU state aid rules, voted against a compromise that would have allowed for state aid to be provided in a wider range of situations.
Jude Kirton-Darling, Labour MEP for North East England, welcomed today's report, but called for more action from the UK Government:
"If we want a balanced, healthy economy that is both sustainable and globally competitive we must develop a level playing field in Europe for our industry."
"We should not rule out offering a fair level of direct financial assistance to this vital sector."
"UKIP and the Conservatives voted together throughout this report."
"The Conservatives followed up their inaction to help Redcar's steelworkers, by trying to water down this vital report."
"While this report has come too late to save the SSI plant in Redcar, a devastating piece of news for our region, it is vital that we take action now to provide a future for the remainder of the Steel industry in the UK, and more broadly the EU."
"Should the ETS free allowances system not resolve carbon leakage issues for the steel sector, the EU Commission should consider and analyse the possibility of developing a carbon border adjustment mechanism linked to the ETS."