Steel bosses are braced for punishing US tariffs to be slapped on EU exports, including from Britain, next week.
A six-week exemption from the 25% duties was granted by Donald Trump in March, but the vital lifeline expires on Tuesday.
Desperate EU officials are locked in talks in a bid to secure a permanent exemption or extend the temporary one.
But the clock is ticking down.
Writing exclusively for the Mirror, Shadow Steel Minister Gill Furniss warns: “Tuesday marks the end of the temporary exemption of EU steel producers secured by the EU.
“With three days to go, the industry is still in the dark as to what will happen next.
“Some 350,000 tonnes of British steel was sold to the US last year alone – that’s seven percent of total steel exports.
“It is clear that any tariffs would ultimately hit the sector hard.”
Ms Furniss has met steelworkers at plants in Port Talbot and Shotton, Flintshire, as she piles pressure on the Tories to back the fragile sector.
She plans to visit sites in Scunthorpe and Rotherham over the coming weeks.
Industry bosses have warned that not only will UK producers see exports to the US slump, but the price of products could plunge elsewhere as steel no longer sent to America floods the market.
UK Steel Director Gareth Stace said: “As we approach the end of the temporary exemption on May 1, our key message remains – unilateral tariffs are not the answer to the problem of overcapacity in the steel sector.
“Such action merely leads to disruption to global trade, increases in steel prices in the US and escalation towards a global trade war.
“The last thing that the steel sector needs right now is further uncertainty, market jolts and most worrying, import surges into the EU that are already manifesting themselves before US tariffs are fully implemented.
“The UK is one of the US’s closest friends and allies, and we have to hope that this will come to bare sooner or later. A full and permanent exemption is the only reasonable course of action between friends.
“The UK steel sector asks President Trump, to announce on Tuesday, May 1, that he has fully considered his options and is granting the EU, the full and permanent exemption that we need.
“We must then move on and together tackle the root cause of the problem; that of massive over capacity in steel production, most notably in China. Until significant progress is made here, then the global sector will continue to lurch from crisis to crisis.”
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox held talks in Washington earlier this year following the White House’s announcement of the planned tariffs.
Mr Trump later granted the EU an exemption, having previously agreed Mexico and Canada would not be hit by the taxes.
A Government spokesman said: “We welcomed the announcement that the United States granted an EU wide exemption on steel and aluminium tariffs, although note that at present this is only for a limited time.
“The steel and aluminium industries are important to the UK and we will continue to work closely with the EU and the US Administration to achieve a permanent exemption, and to ensure that UK workers are protected and safeguarded.
“We remain concerned about the impact of these tariffs on global trade and will continue to work with the EU on a multilateral solution to the global problem of overcapacity, as well as to manage the impact on domestic markets.”
The Mirror has been campaigning to Save Our Steel since the industry was hit by thousands of redundancies in 2015 and 2016.
We told how the Tories have snubbed British steel for a host of bumper defence contracts.
Gill Furniss, shadow steel minister: ‘Step in now to save industry’
As the proud daughter of a steelworker I know just how important the industry is to generations of families.
As we approach the end of tariff exemption, the sector is at a crossroads and could ultimately be hit hard.
So the Government must take urgent action to defend steel and its workers. For our part, Labour will always be committed to the industry.
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