As I write this column, the sad unravelling of Tata Steel is taking place on our TV screens, newspapers and radio. In the day-to-day advocacy that UKPIA undertakes, we often bump into the trade associations representing the steel, ceramics, glass, cement, chemicals and other energy-intensive UK industries.
All of us have been giving the same messages to government for some time environmental and legislative burdens on UK industry, which is subject to global competition, are having a devastating effect on the long-term sustainability of those sectors. While environmental ambitions by the UK and EU are laudable, if our competitors overseas are not subject to the same costs and measures, the playing field is not only far from level, but our opposition may be playing in an entirely different arena.
If we are to encourage corporate investment in the UK manufacturing industry, then our government must show that it sincerely cares about the sectors involved, not just with words, but a long-term policy that reflects the value placed by the nation on the companies that make products here in the UK.
Mitigating against legislation that harms these vital industries must start at the policy development stage here, and in the European Commission, when our government representatives discuss future measures.
To achieve this, there must be a clear and long-term commitment to manufacturing at the highest levels of government, or the hand wringing over lost jobs and infrastructure such as for the British steel industry will continue.
The UK’s oil refining industry is too often disheartened at the uphill and continuous struggle it has to moderate policy impacts, and companies operating in a global market take due note when deciding on global investment.
The sad thing for all of the industries mentioned above is that the products they manufacture will continue to be required by the nation and those goods, now imported, will carry a higher emissions price so we lose the jobs, the manufacturing infrastructure and increase global greenhouse gas emissions. Doesn’t make sense, does it?