Reports that ministers have ranked steel and construction industries among their lowest priorities for Brexit negotiations have been described as a “shocking indictment” of a Government that claims to “understand the importance of manufacturing”.
Responding to news that steel, construction, oil and gas and telecoms sectors have all been pushed to the bottom of the agenda ahead of trade talks, Labour MPs added that is shows “hard working people” risk being the biggest losers when Britain leaves the EU.
The backlash follows the publication of a “leaked” list obtained by the Times, which the paper claims reveals Government plans to divide key UK sectors into high, medium and low priority.
Banking, aerospace, carmaking and pharmaceuticals industries are all at the top, while electronics, fisheries, chemicals and furniture are ranked in the middle.
According to recent figures, the UK exports around 50 percent of its steel to the EU. In 2015, this equated to around £2.35 billion-worth of trade.
The sector has also suffered in recent years as a result of high energy prices and the “dumping” of cheap Chinese steel into international markets.
However, Britain has previously objected to increasing European tariffs on Chinese steel imports.
A Government spokesman told the Times they would not comment on “accounts of leaked documents”.
However, Shadow Brexit Minister Paul Blomfield said the list was “a shocking indictment of a Government that claims to understand the importance of manufacturing”.
“Hard working people, the back bone of our manufacturing sector, will be the losers in this Tory harsh Brexit,” he said.
“The Government must urgently explain this ranking and confirm that jobs [and] livelihoods... will be at the centre of its Brexit plans
Fellow Sheffield MP Angela Smith added: “The news the Government sees the steel industry as such a low priority is deeply disappointing, especially given the hard work of steel MPs over the last 18th months.
“No doubt when Parliament returns, questions will need to be asked just why Government is not living up to their previous promises.”