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Theresa May attacks Donald Trump for 'unjustified' steel tariffs

3 min read

Theresa May has branded Donald Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on EU steel and aluminium "unjustified", as a senior Brexiteer cabinet minister denied the US President's move put paid to hopes of a trade deal.

The US President ignored pleas from American allies and the new tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium, which impact the EU, Canada and Mexico, came into effect on Friday. 

Labour’s Shadow International Trade Secretary, Barry Gardiner, warned the move could deal a hammer-blow to the UK’s steel industry, which is recovering from the 2016 steel crisis caused by oversupply and slack demand.

In a statement released on Friday afternoon, the Prime Minister made her first intervention on the row, warning it would affect US defence projects.

“I am deeply disappointed at the unjustified decision by the US to apply tariffs to EU steel and aluminium imports,” she said. “The US, EU and UK are close allies and have always promoted values of open and fair trade across the world. 

“Our steel and aluminium industries are hugely important to the UK, but they also contribute to US industry including in defence projects which bolster US national security.

“The EU and UK should be permanently exempted from tariffs and we will continue to work together to protect and safeguard our workers and industries."

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox this morning denied that Mr Trump's actions undermined hopes among Brexiteers that the UK could generous trade deal with the US once the UK leaves the European Union.

“No, I don’t think that’s true at all," he told the Today programme.

"In the American government system of course the element that does the tariffs, which is the department of commerce, is different to the department that does trade negotiations.

"It’s been made very clear by the US and by President Trump himself that they see a big economic advantage in having a future trade agreement with the United Kingdom."

Pressed on whether the UK would accept a trade deal with the US at any price in the wake of the President's move on steel, Mr Fox said: "Well if we can’t come to an agreement that we believe is in the interests of the United Kingdom, we wouldn’t be signing any trade agreement.

"But we have had working groups with the US which have been making a lot of progress in terms of how we think we can get liberalisation."

The EU last night issued a 10-page list of tariffs on US goods in response, ranging from Harley-Davidson motorcycles to whiskey. French President Emmanuel Macron called Trump on Friday to tell him the tariffs were “illegal”. 

The EU has also filed a challenge with the World Trade Organisation. 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the move was “unacceptable” and plans to impose tariffs of up to 25% on $13bn worth of US exports from 1 July. 

Britain exports 7% of its steel, worth £360m, to the US, according to UK Steel, the body that represents steel producers across the country.

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