Daily Debrief April 2nd

Steel Industry dominates the headlines

“Going through the motions”: The Financial Times reports that “Tata is going through the motions” of seeking a buyer for Port Talbot. But the paper reports that Tata has been looking for a buyer for eighteen months, and has effectively given up hope.  Given the massive losses at the plant, and the global outlook for steel in the face of vast Chinese over-production, the prospects seem bleak.  I spent decades on the marketing business, and I struggle to see how you would develop a credible sales pitch for a UK steel plant.

Sajid Javid feels the heat: The Guardian reports that Business Secretary Sajid Javid, freshly returned from his trip to Australia, was subjected to the anger of steelworkers on his visit to Port Talbot yesterday. Not a surprise, since he had nothing to tell them except the meaningless slogan that “The government would do everything it could” to keep the plant open and find a buyer.  While we’re in the EU, there is very little that the government can do, and Javid had no worthwhile proposals to offer.

Cameron confesses he opposed China anti-dumping tariffs: The same Guardian report covers David Cameron’s admission that the UK opposed the application of swingeing anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese steel (remember that the USA has applied tariffs up to 250%+).  Cameron has half a point: tariffs on Chinese steel might help UK steel producers, but would hurt steel users who benefit from low Chinese prices.  Nonetheless, it is clear that the USA has managed the situation more successfully and far more decisively than the EU.  Cameron seeks to justify his position by claiming that the UK argued for higher tariffs on certain sectors of the market, while opposing a blanket imposition of tariffs.  Not much comfort there for South Wales.

China applies tariffs against UK steel:  In a bizarre move which can only be seen as a deliberate provocation, a two-finger gesture, China has applied tariffs of 46% against certain steel categories made in Korea, Japan – and South Wales.  The Times describes this as “a humiliation for the government”, and it is difficult to disagree.  Since UK steel exports to China are trivial anyway, it is difficult to see much practical effect from the move, but the effect on public opinion in South Wales will surely be very negative.

Tory feud over NHS & Brexit deepens

The Telegraph has reported a letter from Vote Leave which directly links underfunding of the NHS to Britain’s massive membership fees to the EU, and argues that we should leave the EU and divert the funding to the NHS. A “government source” has accused Matthew Elliott, leader of Vote Leave, of “cynicism”, as Elliott had previously (in his post with The Taxpayers’ Alliance”) called for an end to ring-fencing of the NHS.  Nonetheless, Vote Leave has an obvious and valid point.  Ending our EU subscription would help our hard-pressed balance-of-payments, and free up funding for other objectives.

Turkey “not ready to process deported migrants”

The BBC and others are reporting serious implementation problems with the EU/Turkey migrant deal. Deportations are scheduled to start this coming week.  But there is trouble in the camps on the Greek Islands, and doubts are being raised as to whether Turkey is ready to deal with large numbers of returned migrants.  Local residents near a proposed holding centre in Turkey are said to be protesting.  This comes against a background of reports that Turkey has been shooting to kill migrants, and also rounding up migrants and deporting them forcibly and illegally to Syria.  Human rights organisations are up in arms and insisting that Turkey is not a “safe country” to which migrants can be sent.

Reports from the Greek islands suggest that the promised army of EU administrators to handle the scheme are not yet in place.  Hundreds of migrants on the Greek island of Chios have broken out of their detention camp and rampaged through the town.  This has all the hallmarks of an EU project.  Grandiose plans, inadequate resource and planning, failure of administration, chaos and disorder, squalid and inhuman conditions, unrest and protest, rancour and recrimination.

“Plot to behead British Soldiers”

The Mail reports an ISIS plot to behead soldiers on the streets of Britain. This is linked to the earlier conviction of an ISIS supporter for planning to attack US Servicemen in Britain, but the Mail adds that the terrorists claimed also to have personal details of British Army personnel which they proposed to use to target attacks.

National Health Service? Or International Health Service?

The Daily Express reports that maternity care for mothers from the EU has cost the NHS £1.3 billion over the last ten years.  They say 476,000 babies were born to EU mothers between 2005 and 2014 – and amounted to nearly 10% of all live births in 2014.

Many of these mothers will be here for perfectly legitimate reasons, but it is a fair bet that many come for free quality healthcare, and others to establish the British nationality of their child.

The paper quotes Employment Minister Priti Patel: “Rising levels of migration from other EU countries and increasing numbers of children born to those migrants is placing pressure on our services.  The growing number of births to women from other EU countries means our population is growing and those children will need schools to go to and other childcare facilities and services.  While the UK remains a member of the EU we cannot control the levels of migration from the EU, and the long term impact and pressures it places on this country”.  Indeed.

“Navy abandons Falklands”

Not strictly an EU story – until you consider the reluctance of EU member states to support the UK position during the Falklands war in 1982. But the “i” is reporting that ship shortages and maintenance schedules have left the Royal Navy unable to patrol the Falklands. If this is true, it is a scandal – especially at a time when Argentina has been sabre-rattling again.  The defence of the realm is the first priority for any government.  They said that Cameron didn’t want to go down in history as the Prime Minister who lost Scotland.  He’s better make sure he doesn’t go down in history as the prime Minister who lost the Falklands.

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10 Responses to Daily Debrief April 2nd

  1. Alan Wheatley says:

    Re Falklands, how timely that Professor Vernon Bogdanor gave a lecture on the 1982 Falklands War, broadcast on the the Parliamentary Channel at 21:10 on 31st March – available on the iPlayer.

    One of his themes was that the invasion came about in part as a result of mistakes by both Labour and Conservative governments such that the Argentinean government got a message that there would not be a response to invasion!

    If we can’t send a gun boat this time, then we could send a nuclear submarine, or even the credible impression that we have – they would not know the difference – and with the memory of what happened last time the deterrent effect ought to be sufficient.

    Incidentally, Bogdanor said that Harold Wilson sent a couple of nuclear submarines, but by the time of the invasion they had been withdrawn.

  2. ian wragg says:

    Cameron doesn’t give a flying F–k for Britain, the armed forces or the Falklands.
    All he is interested in is doing the bidding of his masters in Brussels which the de-industrialisation of Britain and is a major priority.
    The latest closure of Port Talbot steel making fits in very well with the plans to decarbonise Britain, next attention will be turned on chemical production in Runcorn.
    The liberal left of which Cameron is one see these a dinosaur industries which should be curtailed urgently.
    We can all take in each others washing and serve coffees to create a thriving vibrant country.
    The fact we have no power or have to buy everything from abroad is of no consequence to these chancers.

  3. Ex-expat Colin says:

    Navy…if you cut it (redundancies – a lot) and scrap plenty of tubs it’ll still be expected to be alright on a particular night? Oh, forgot..may, might, could have to fight on a a number of fronts and nights. Oh dear!

    However, you will have to pay a Sultan to park a few of the tubs you don’t have much of near the Indian Ocean. Meanwhile Russia does the business, steps aside and you wont recognise them. No surprise then that they don’t turn up at the EU/USA junket on Nuclear. Next lunch please!

    Good time to build some new tubs now Steel is cheap? You could build them in UK…but likely you won’t because you’ll need the EU’s permission in some perverse form. Dunno…but its all getting real sick!

  4. Shieldsman says:

    If Osborne can magic up £12billion to give away in so called foreign aid, then I am sure he could manage a couple of billion to save a national asset like the steel industry. Nationalise it if necessary.
    With the right conditions and a natural rise prices it will be profitable again, why did TATA buy it.
    Business Secretary Sajid Javid: “UK steel industry is absolutely vital for the country… I don’t think nationalisation is going to be the solution because I think everyone would want a long-term viable solution.” So his brain is stuck in stalled – not working.
    Of course a big problem for all manufacturing is the high cost of electricity entirely due to Government green energy policy. Osborne made it worse with his tax raid – ‘carbon price floor’.
    We had Anna Soubry saying the Germans subsidise electricity for industry by charging the public more. Isn’t she aware of the 8% levy for renewables on her energy bill, but then she is still wet behind the ears.

    • John Poynton says:

      Agreed. There is still a strong case for maintaining a sufficient steel industry in this country to satisfy long-term domestic demand. Steel is still very much a ‘modern’ industry which will always be required.
      Globally the steel industry will have to downsize. That means the only way we can protect our industry and keep it profitable is by creating a closed domestic market, irrespective of current relative productivity. Let China and the rest of the world do the downsizing. The government should recapitalise the industry like the banks, but then regulate it on a profit ‘cap and collar’ basis – perhaps 5 +/- 2.5% – supported by a tariff regime that of course can only be achieved by leaving the EU.

    • I’m not sure that nationalisation would make any real difference — unless of course by nationalisation you mean permanent state subsidies. But nationalisation won’t reduce energy prices. It won’t allow state aid (unless we leave the EU) and it won’t stop Chinese dumping. It would just mean that the tax-payer, not Tata, would be losing a million pounds a day.

  5. Christopher Browne says:

    I read in the Mail today that TaTa have been in talks with ThysenKrupp of Germany about a merger which was contingent with closing UK steel plants. Your job is safer in Europe.

    • If so, Christopher, that’s a reflection on relative energy prices in UK and Germany, not on Brexit. Don’t forget the billions that Tata has invested in Jaguar Land-Rover in the UK.

      • ian wragg says:

        But Krupp would want the UK steel industry to close to increase its own market share. I remember when the manufacturer of ships propellers in Britain was shut down but the Germans were allowed to give theres a subsidy because it was a deprived area.
        Now we have no capacity and Germany is in a monopoly position.
        This is the plan for all industry to go to Germany to support the 4th Reich.

  6. Dung says:

    Cameron does not understand any of the following:

    The job he is meant to be doing.

    We are short of ships (and crew) but we can afford HS2
    He believes in Britain but gives billions away in aid so that he can look good.
    He gave a cast iron guarantee that we would get an EU referendum but had to be dragged kicking
    and screaming by Farage into doing it.
    He should have been loyal to all those working in energy intensive industries but he is throwing them and their industries onto the scrap heap.
    He should always act in the best interests of this nation, its economy and its people but he does none of those things.
    Would that we had the power to impeach this imbecile.

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