Brexit is killing British industry, French Prime Minister claims

Gabriel Attal says Britain leaving EU is behind impending closure of country’s last blast furnaces – Michel Euler/AP

Brexit is killing British industry, the French Prime Minister claimed in Parliament on Tuesday.

Gabriel Attal said Britain’s departure from the EU was behind the closure of the “last blast furnaces” in Britain.

Earlier this month, Tata Steel confirmed it would close the remaining two blast furnaces at Britain’s largest steel mill by the end of the year. The plan will result in the loss of up to 2,800 jobs at the Port Talbot site in South Wales.

France will head in the same direction and see its industry decline if it gives in to the “sirens” of Marine Le Pen’s hard-right National Rally (RN), Mr Attal added in comments that he admitted hurt those who voted for them in 2016 Leave votes ‘would hurt’. referendum.

With European Parliament elections looming in June and RN polls putting President Emmanuel Macron’s Renew alliance more than 10 points ahead, Mr Attal warned that RN’s desire to ignore EU treaties would lead to a creeping Frexit.

“I say it: those who advocate ending the application of treaties are in favor of a disguised Frexit that would weaken France,” 34-year-old Attal told the National Assembly during his general statement to parliamentarians.

“Less Europe means less power for France. I’ll give just one example, and it will hurt some people. Brexit: its supporters promised happy days for the British economy and the British people,” he said.

“Last week, the last blast furnaces in Great Britain were closed due to Brexit. Steel is no longer produced in Britain. We in France, on the other hand, mainly thanks to investments from Europe, the industry is coming back,” he emphasized.

Tata Steel's Port Talbot site in South WalesTata Steel's Port Talbot site in South Wales

Tata Steel’s Port Talbot site in South Wales – Lee Thomas

“Who were the first supporters of Brexit in France? Who called the streets in the cities it controls ‘rue du Brexit’, who openly confronted the leader of the Brexit camp? It is the National Rally,” Mr Attal said, in comments likely to spark anger in some quarters across the Channel.

In September, Britain even overtook France as the world’s eighth largest manufacturer, according to an analysis published by Make UK, the trade body representing British manufacturers.

As a result, it became the eighth largest manufacturer in the world. Manufacturing jobs in Britain paid better than both the services sector and the economy as a whole, the analysis also found.

According to Make UK, UK manufacturing output in 2021 – the latest year for which global comparisons are available – was $272 billion, compared to $262 billion for France. Both trailed Italy with $314 billion.

Although Make UK sees the rise in its export rankings as ‘encouraging’, the company warned that this was only the third time since 2002 that Britain has ranked higher than France and that this could not be attributed to a post-Brexit rebound or other specific factors. .

The closure of Tata Steel’s blast furnaces was a devastating blow to the 4,000 employees at the Port Talbot site, which is expected to bear the brunt of the job losses. Tata employs around 8,000 people in the UK.

Protesters outside the Port Talbot steelworks are protesting against plans to close both blast furnacesProtesters outside the Port Talbot steelworks are protesting against plans to close both blast furnaces

Protesters outside Port Talbot Steelworks protest against plans to close both blast furnaces – Lee Thomas

Under the plans, the company will invest £750 million in the restructuring and construction of a less carbon-intensive electric arc furnace on the same site, supported by a £500 million government grant.

Tata’s decision follows a similar move by British Steel, which said last year it would close its two remaining blast furnaces and build two electric arc furnaces. It was said that they could be operational by the end of 2025.

The closures leave Britain the only major economy without the ability to make primary steel from iron ore and coal. Tata will cut around 2,500 jobs over the next eighteen months, mainly due to the closure of its blast furnaces and coke ovens. The company’s UK operations are losing around £1.5 million a day.

Three weeks ago, Attal became France’s youngest-ever prime minister and the first gay prime minister. He has been embroiled in a nationwide farmers’ protest in which tractors besieged Paris and other major cities.

Gabriel Attal with French President Emmanuel MacronGabriel Attal with French President Emmanuel Macron

Mr Attal with French President Emmanuel Macron, who is under pressure to deal with a nationwide farmers’ protest – LUDOVIC MARIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Mr Attal’s comments come as the young leader is locked in a bitter shadowboxing match with Jordan Bardella, the 29-year-old RN party leader who is leading the party’s European election campaign.

On Monday, Bardella said French farmers are suffering from “unfair international competition” and “punitive European green regulations,” which he said proves that “90 percent of the problem lies in Brussels.”

The far-right leader said he was “not against the CAP”, the common agricultural policy of which France is the main recipient and whose budget he would like to reduce.

For him, “the issue is free trade agreements”, especially with New Zealand and Mercosur, and especially the EU Green Deal, which will be “one of (my) two big campaign issues”, along with the European Migration Pact.

In an interview with The Telegraph last month, Bardella said he was “ready” to take over Attal’s job as prime minister should Macron call a snap election and lose.

He said “patriots,” as he calls nationalists in his Identity and Democracy (ID) group, have the wind in their sails in Europe, fueled by November’s general election in the Netherlands, which delivered a surprise victory for the anti-democratic government of Geert Wilders. immigration Freedom Party.

ID is now the sixth largest in the EU assembly, also behind liberal, green and conservative groups, but current polls put it in fourth place.

“We can create a minority blockade in the European Parliament,” the RN leader said.

The election, he said, would be a “referendum on immigration”, as would Europe’s liberal agenda and its net zero policy, to the detriment of competitiveness.

But above all, he said the European elections would be a ‘referendum’ on Macron himself.

“I see these elections as an interim referendum on Macron, halfway through his five-year mandate. These are the only national elections at that time. I say to the French: the party that comes first is the party that will be in charge of preparing the post-Macron era.”

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