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Boris Johnson risks trade row with Donald Trump with vow to push ahead with tax on US tech giants

Boris Johnson risks trade row with Donald Trump with vow to push ahead with tax on US tech giants
3 min read

Boris Johnson has risked a trade row with Donald Trump after vowing to push ahead with a tax on US tech giants.

The Prime Minister said firms like Facebook and Google must make a “fairer contribution” to the public purse, despite the President threatening damaging tariffs against France for proposing a similar plan.

Mr Trump arrived in the UK for a Nato summit pledging to slap a £2billion levy on French products including champagne and cheese after Emmanuel Macron introduced a “digital services tax”.

The Conservative manifesto promises to implement such a scheme, starting next year, which is expected to yield almost £500million a year.

Despite warnings it could put a post-Brexit trade deal with America at risk, Mr Johnson said he would continue with the policy, which applies a 2% levy on tech firms’ revenues in the UK.

Speaking on the campaign trail in Salisbury, the PM said: “I do think we need to look at the operation of the big digital companies and the huge revenues they have in this country and the amount of tax that they pay.

“We need to sort that out. They need to make a fairer contribution.”

Asked about the US threat of retaliatory tariffs against France, Mr Johnson said he “deplored” trade wars.

Earlier on Tuesday Mr Trump had defended his approach, saying: “Look, I’m not in love with those companies — Facebook, Google and all of them.

“But they are American companies. It was totally out of the blue, Emmanuel [Macron] had the idea to tax those companies.

“Well, they are American companies. If anyone is going to take advantage of the American companies, it is going to be us, it is not going to be France.

“So we are taxing their wines and everything else, and we have a very, very big tax to put on them.”

The comments by Mr Johnson are being seen as part of a wider plan by Downing Street to try and distance the PM from Mr Trump in the run-up to next week’s election.

In a highly unusual move, the pair do not have bilateral talks scheduled whilst the President is in Britain, and there have been no pictures published of them together.

Number 10 said they had an off-camera, one-to-one meeting at a reception for world leaders.

It came after Jeremy Corbyn had threatened to confront Mr Trump to ask for "reassurances" the NHS would be "off the table" in post-Brexit trade talks .

The President had earlier told a press conference he wanted "absolutely nothing to do with" the health service.

He said even if it was handed over on a “silver platter” his country would not want to get involved in the NHS.

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