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Prime Minister hints he is ready to break international law to protect British steel


The Prime Minister has hinted that Britain may be prepared to break international law to protect its steel industry.

Boris Johnson argued at the G7 summit in Germany that it was reasonable for British steel to enjoy the “same protections” as other European economies.

The Telegraph has reported that the Prime Minister intends to impose new steel tariffs in a bid to win back support in traditional Labor hearts.

He said ministers also plan to announce a two-year extension of steel tariffs already imposed on developed countries and China.

The newspaper said the changes were the same as those cited by Lord Geidt when he left his post as Mr Johnson’s chief ethics officer, as he claimed he had been placed in an “impossible and impossible” position. odious” by the Prime Minister.

The peer said in his resignation letter that he only credibly clung to his role “by a very small margin” at anti-lockdown parties in Downing Street.

But he said he was forced to resign when asked to advise on “the government‘s intention to consider measures which risk a willful and willful violation of the ministerial code”.

This has been widely interpreted to mean the issue of extending tariffs on steel imports despite the possible violation of World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments.

Asked about reports he was prepared to break WTO rules by imposing new tariffs, Mr Johnson said: ‘I think it’s very important that people understand the context of this, and it is that the UK steel industry is going through a difficult period, partly because of the energy prices that I have spoken about.

“We have a system in the UK where we don’t favor our industry like some other countries do. They pay a very high price for energy, we have to solve this problem.

“We need British Steel to get much cheaper energy and cheap electricity for its blast furnaces, but until we can fix this I think it is reasonable that British steel should benefit the same protections as the other European economies, absolutely all the other European steel economies. .”

Mr Johnson noted that “the proposal would be that we remove these protections, remove these tariffs” unilaterally, adding: “I don’t think that’s the right way to go. I want another way.

Boris Johnson’s former ethics chief Lord Geidt (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“The difficulty is, is it possible to do this while still remaining within our WTO, our obligations at the World Trade Organization? That’s the problem. But those are tough choices you have to make.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said it was ‘right’ for the government to seek to strike the right ‘balance’ on trade, insisting it always works ‘within the law international”.

Asked about reports that ministers were considering imposing steel tariffs which could be deemed illegal, he told the BBC’s Sunday morning show: “Well we are still working and trying to respect international law.”

Pressed on whether the government would impose the tariffs even if it threatened some sort of trade war, he said: ‘I’m not saying we’re going to, the chancellor, the business secretary and the prime minister have to look at all these things.

“They need to balance what we do with how we trade internationally with people, and protect and provide a sector of the economy here that is important for jobs.

“I think it’s fair that they look at all of these things so that they can make the right decisions to protect the jobs here, to see our economy grow and to make sure we have the input for steel, for example. . , that we need to develop our infrastructure in the future, which is so important for our future economy.”