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  • They've been forging steel here since 1866,

  • it's one of the oldest steel manufacturing facilities in the U.K.

  • But now experts say the threat of a no-deal Brexit could mean that the safeguards that have

  • helped prop up prices for British steel could vanish alongside European union membership.

  • Steel was vital to Britain's industrial advancement in the 19th century.

  • It helped support the country's railways, bridges and buildings.

  • And in Europe, after the Second World War, steel played a major role

  • in the continent's rebuilding, both physical and political.

  • Six European countries, who'd fought on different sides of the war,

  • agreed to set aside their commercial differences and share centralized authority over steel production.

  • That decision really marked the first step in the formation of the European Union.

  • But since the 1950s British government hoped to nationalize the U.K's steel industry,

  • it did not initially sign up to the new Europeancluband only joined much later.

  • But experts say that it's European Union membership that in recent years

  • has provided bigger benefits to steelmakers, in terms of propped up prices

  • and increased employment, than to any other U.K. industry.

  • So with Brexit now so close, how might the British steel sector

  • react to a change in the U.K.'s relationship with Europe?

  • The short answer

  • Not well.

  • In the event of a no-deal Brexit, the percentage of total U.K. steel exports facing trade restrictions,

  • including tariffs, could swing from 15 percent to a whopping 97 percent.

  • Higher shipping and admin costs could total £70 million, or $92 million, a year for steel exporters.

  • And let's not forget President Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs

  • that have separately threatened the industry.

  • Basically, the timing could hardly be worse.

  • Alex Cross has spent most of his adult life around giant slabs of molten metal.

  • He's the production director at Somers Forge, it's one of the oldest steel manufacturers in Great Britain.

  • How many people work here overall? What's your total workforce?

  • There's around about 120 people who work at Somers.

  • And while the products may ship out looking shiny and new,

  • the furnaces here are more than a century old.

  • And at this family-owned firm, that dates back to 1697, business is booming - despite all that Brexit uncertainty.

  • It's turbulent times at the moment, for the U.K., and to have such a robust company,

  • with a strong healthy order book into the future, of course, we're extremely proud.

  • Somers produces highly-specialized steel products used in submarines, ships and right across the energy sector.

  • We have the capabilities to process a piece of material that's over 60 tonnes in weight,

  • we heat that up to temperatures in excess of 1,200 degrees, and we have the ability

  • with our 4,000-tonne press, to manipulate that steel into a shape

  • which can prep it for machining further down the line.

  • However, many in the steel industry aren't equipped to bounce back

  • from Brexit, Trump and trade tariffs quite as well.

  • In 2016, the steel sector virtually crashed, since then it's on a steady journey of recovery.

  • Tammy Inglis is the Finance Director here.

  • She admits that U.S. tariffs have hurt her bottom line,

  • but a hard Brexit, she insists, could mean much harder times for many of her peers.

  • Steel prices I think would fall, the steel industry would suffer.

  • Do you feel like you've had a partner in government, in a sense, that's helped you plan?

  • No, I don't think we've had the visibility that business needs.

  • I think because of the way that Somers operates we haven't felt the adverse impact of that.

  • We've been through two world wars, numerous recessions.

  • I guess to some degree we feel like we are equipped and experienced to take it on.

  • Brexit will just be another chapter in the Somers history book.

  • But for those companies with a weaker pedigree, and indeed a weaker cash position,

  • in an industry that's already being squeezed, there's no politician in the U.K.

  • who can promise Brexit won't spark significant, and lasting, damage for the country's steel.

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They've been forging steel here since 1866,

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Why the steel industry is worried about Brexit | CNBC Reports

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    Summer posted on 2020/04/28
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