04:32 GMT +312 November 2019
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    The British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth is pulled from its berth by tugs before its maiden voyage, in Rosyth, Scotland, Britain June 26, 2017.

    Trade Union Warns of UK Shipbuilding Capacity Decline as Contracts May Go Abroad

    © AP Photo / Russell Cheyne
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    LONDON (Sputnik) - The possibility of foreign manufacturers building support vessels for the Navy’s aircraft carriers may reduce the UK’s already declining shipbuilding capacity, whereas giving the orders to national shipbuilders is likely to boost the economy, Alex Flynn, a spokesman for Unite, the largest trade union in Britain, told Sputnik.

    The statement follows mounting concerns among UK trade unions that three 35,000-tonne auxiliary vessels intended to support the HMS Queen Elizabeth may be constructed in foreign shipyards. The concerns have risen earlier in the week amid The Telegraph reports that more foreign manufacturers than national ones attended the recent Defence Ministry industry day, which is seen as a potential precursor to bidding on one billion pounds ($1.4 billion) worth of the contract to construct the support ships.

    "These ships should be built in the UK, simple as. It would support jobs and be of benefit to the national economy, but what we've also seen over the last few years is more and more of the UK defence budget being spent overseas. By 2020 around 25 pence in every pound of defence spending will be in factories in the US and elsewhere, so we're very much of the view that as much of the UK's defence budget [as possible] should be spent here to support UK jobs, engineering and innovation," Flynn said.

    Flynn stressed that contracting foreign shipyards to build the auxiliary vessels may launch longer-term trends in UK shipbuilding, with a loss of skills and infrastructure impacting the UK's ability to produce both civilian and military vessels.

    "Right across the UK we've seen a decline in shipbuilding and the capability of the UK to actually build ships. You've seen this over the last few decades, if not more, so there's a danger that with ships such as these support ships not being built here you lose capability," Flynn noted, adding that the country risked ultimately finding itself incapable even to construct a new Royal Yacht, if such a need arose.

    Flynn noted that the government should thoroughly consider all far-reaching consequences of the upcoming decision, instead of looking for savings in budget. According to Flynn, by building the ships in the United Kingdom, the government will generate new jobs and inflow of taxes, which would, in turn, support struggling public services.

    "The government needs to understand that just because something seems cheaper if you go elsewhere to buy it doesn't mean in the long-term that that's still the case. By building those ships here you are going to put people into work, those people are going to be paying money into the treasury that can go to supporting public services, you'll have other things such as corporation tax as well as jobs in the supply chain as well… so they need to take a bigger, long-term look at these things," he concluded.

    According to the GMB trade union's research, around 6,700 jobs would either be created or secured in the event of the construction contract going to a domestic manufacturer.

    The union also believes this would provide a much welcome cash injection into the UK's struggling welfare system, with an estimated 285,000 million pounds ($400,000) finding its way into the Treasury through national insurance contributions, income tax and reduced welfare claims.


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    shipbuilding, HMS Queen Elizabeth, United States, United Kingdom
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