It’s excruciating to watch government ministers squirming in order not to state the obvious and what they believe with regard to the future of the Tata steel making plant in Port Talbot which is that there is no long term prospect of the profitable manufacture of bulk steel in the UK. It may be possible for the government to offer short term support and even broker a deal with a buyer leading on to long term support in the form of training and support for new businesses but Tata is a private company which, having done its sums, is reportedly prepared to give the blast furnaces away. Tragic though it is for the steel workers, their families and the communities whose lives depend on the Port Talbot plant the future of steelmaking in the UK must be in speciality steels and the specialised rolling and milling of already-manufactured steel.
Take a look at the automotive industry in the UK. When the infamous government owned British Leyland motor company fell apart from the 1970’s onwards it was generally held to be the end for the industry in the UK but this turned out not to be the case. By concentrating on adding value in niche markets and specialisation it became what is now a thriving industrial sector known for premium and sports cars (as well as volume production). It is a centre of excellence for engine manufacturing and motor sports. So let’s be realistic about the present circumstances and plan for a bright ‘value added’ future for steelmaking in the UK.