Why do we need a strong steel sector in the UK?

2 October 2023

UK Steel has today unveiled its report “Why the UK needs a strong steel sector”. The UK’s steel industry is the bedrock of the UK’s supply chains, central to the country’s economic potential and our resilience at a time of geopolitical turbulence.

 Now is the time to be bold and seize the opportunity to lead the world by building a Net Zero steel sector.

Nearly every economy in the G20 boasts a strong steel sector, which is a testament to the important role it plays as the base of a strong economy. The UK is an outlier in terms of steel production relative to GDP and relative to the size of our manufacturing base. While the UK is now the eighth largest manufacturer in the world, delivering £224bn of output each year, the UK’s steelmaking sector’s ranking dropped dramatically from 18th to 24th largest globally in the last decade. For example, France, comparable to the UK in terms of GDP, population and size of manufacturing sector, produces around double the amount of steel.

There is public appetite too - according to Make UK research issued at the end of September, seven in 10 Brits think it is important to buy British products. By building up UK steelmaking and relying less on imports, the country’s supply chains and major projects will not be at the whim of international markets and geopolitical instability.

As well as underpinning some 40,000 jobs in steelmaking alone, steel is used in every part of the modern economy. This country is known globally as leaders in renewables and innovation, and steel is fundamental to this. From being used in the solar panels keeping thousands of homes switched on across the country, to rail, defence, modern medicine and more, steel is the key to success.

There is a huge opportunity to lead the Net Zero initiative, as the UK is perfectly positioned for green steelmaking by strategically using our own scrap resource. The UK produces 10Mt or more of scrap steel a year – a core part of lower carbon, Electric Arc Furnace steelmaking – but much of it is exported to be sorted abroad only to be re-imported later. It only makes sense to grasp the opportunity, use this abundant resource and cut carbon emissions in home-grown steelmaking.

The UK deserves to have a strong, national industry making products for infrastructure, homes, energy and transport across the nation instead of importing high-carbon steel. We need more steel, not less, in our Net Zero future. To find out more, visit uksteel.org/why.