EU Referendum

EU membership will help save steel, says Welsh secretary

Alun Cairns
Image caption Alun Cairns says more than two-thirds of steel exports from Wales go to Europe

Staying in the EU makes the chances of finding a buyer for Tata's steel operations in Wales "much stronger", Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns has said.

The firm has said seven bidders were interested in buying its UK business, including its Port Talbot plant.

In a speech in Swansea, Mr Cairns said access to the European Union market was "fundamental" to steel manufacturers.

But Vote Leave Cymru called the EU a "barrier that restricts our ability to offer support to businesses in need".

Speaking to business leaders on Thursday, Mr Cairns said: "Although there are no guarantees, be in no doubt our membership of the European Union makes our chances of gaining that buyer, of defending our industry, so much stronger.

"Access to the EU market is fundamental to any steel manufacturer, with 69% of all steel exports from Wales going to Europe last year."

'Almost powerless'

Mr Cairns warned that, after a Brexit, the British steel industry could fall victim to EU tariffs.

"The joint action taken across Europe to defend our industry from steel dumping has led steel imports from outside the EU [to] fall massively," he said.

"We've pressed the European Commission for firmer, faster action and there is still more to do."

But a Vote Leave Cymru spokesman responded: "When the Welsh steel industry needed intervention, both the governments in Westminster and Cardiff were limited in what they could do by the EU."

"We are almost powerless to set tariffs to protect Welsh and UK based businesses from dumping from China, and when an important Welsh industry needs help in the future, we will be in a far weaker position to assist if we vote to remain in the EU."

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