SPAIN and France have complained to Brussels over concerns the UK Government is favouring British firms when it comes to awarding contracts worth billions of pounds
The new spat with the EU is in response to Boris Johnson’s procurement policy for the British wind turbine industry. The EU, particularly Madrid and Paris, claim the UK’s current policy could be in breach of the post-Brexit trade deal signed at the end of last year. Alarm bells rang after the Government set an industry target of 60 percent of supply chains for new offshore windfarms to use UK-manufactured goods or domestically supplied services.
The Government issued two questionnaires for those bidding for contracts, which required applicants to “anticipate, with supporting evidence, the level of UK content in their project and level of the local job creation”.
But the trade deal agreed with the EU specifically prohibits any requirement for companies to “achieve a given level or percentage of domestic content”.
Spain and France are home to leading energy supplies so have a keen interest in the upcoming contracts.
The two countries have instructed the European Commission to raise the issue of the new contract processes with the UK at a recent meeting.
British officials confirmed the details of the questionnaire but said they had not yet decided on which companies to use or if the response to domestic supply chains will be given significant weighting.
Sam Lowe, a senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform thinktank, condemned the plans and warned the UK could be in breach of its international commitments.
He said: “Local content requirements are prohibited not just under the EU-UK trade and cooperation agreement, but also the UK’s WTO commitments.
“So the question that needs answering is whether the UK is in fact giving companies with UK supply chains preferential access to contracts, or just information-gathering. The latter is fine, the former less so.”
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said the success of applications for UK contracts would not depend on commitments by companies over the use of local labour and services.
It said: “We are committed to supporting the UK renewables industry wherever possible, and building sustainable supply chains for low-carbon electricity, capable of delivering the offshore wind sector deal’s industry commitment of 60 percent UK content in its facilities.