The tragedy for the people of Port Talbot is that the Government really cannot do anything to help them. There is a massive oversupply of Chinese steel in the world, which, if we allow it to flow freely over our borders, quite plainly makes British steel uncompetitive. That we are doing so is partly the fault of the Government, largely the fault of the EU, since it is they who set tariffs. America has set a 250% tariff on Chinese Steel, the EU 10% or thereabouts. And we are too scared of China to stand up to them on behalf of the people of Port Talbot.
Never mind – at least we can make sure that our ships and tanks and government-purchased goods and equipment is made from British steel. On no we can’t. EU State Aid rules stipulate that we cannot do anything to support home industries over European ones. A “Buy British” campaign would land us in the European Court of Justice quick as a flash.
All right then, lets at least cut the massive energy bills which are one of the main reasons we cannot make steel cheaply. But no- we can’t do that either because we have to fulfill EU green energy targets, which require huge cuts in outputs from blast furnaces, and massive hikes to bills if that cannot be achieved. We could not subsidise Port Talbot’s gas bill even if we wanted to.
The EU aren’t to blame for this, but the idiotic 0.7% of GDP Aid target, which I voted against to the annoyance of Tory whips, means that ministers are now thrashing around like mad to find places to give away our money. At least some of the countries we are subsidising that way, are cross-subsidising their steel industries which damages Port Talbot. I am all in favour of aid where it is needed. But a bogus target which brings with it these kinds of inadvertent consequences is just plain mad.
I welcome the Living Wage, and the benefits it will bring to a great many lowly paid people. But I fear for its consequences for immigration. Our minimum wage is now ten times the average wage in Romania. Hardly surprising that they all want to come here, but pretty horrifying that we currently have no means of preventing it. What we have inadvertently done is promise 500 million people across Europe that if they can find their way to London they are guaranteed £9.40 an hour. Nice work if you can get it, my Bulgarian and Romanian friends.
Free trade and liberal economies are the lifeblood of the world. But the EU is in fact the antithesis of free trade. It is a massive customs union closing its outer borders to imports, yet preventing any such trade restrictions within its borders. How I yearn for the days when Parliament decided what trading was in our National interests and then enacted laws and tariffs to the benefit of the British people. We were great in those days, and decided our own fate in the world. That’s all been thrown away in pursuit of a European superstate. We have a one-off chance on 23 June to reverse the lowest common denominator effect of the European Project, and once again empower our own Government to act in the best interests of the people of Port Talbot and across these islands.