Number 10 scrambles to play down claims Joe Biden is delaying the removal of tariffs on UK steel imports over concerns over post-Brexit border rules in Northern Ireland
- Report suggests US delay lifting tariffs on UK steel and aluminum imports
- That’s because Washington is worried about UK threats to tear up the Brexit deal
- But Downing Street today insisted that Brexit and steel are ‘two separate issues’
Downing Street today tried to play down claims that Joe Biden is delaying the lifting of tariffs on UK imports of steel and aluminum over Brexit concerns.
The US administration fears that Britain’s repeated threats to destroy post-Brexit border controls in Northern Ireland could endanger the peace process.
The UK has said it is ready to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol to suspend some of the rules unless the EU gives more ground in talks to reduce friction at the frontier.
The Financial Times reported seeing a communication in which a U.S. trade official said tariff easing talks could not proceed due to Brexit fears.
However, Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson insisted this afternoon that the two issues are unrelated.
Downing Street rushed today to play down claims Joe Biden is delaying the lifting of tariffs on UK steel and aluminum imports over Brexit concerns
Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson insisted this afternoon that the two issues are unrelated
The spokesperson told reporters: “It is important not to confuse these two issues. They are two separate points.
âOn steel tariffs, we are working closely with the Biden administration.
âIt is encouraging that they are taking action to defuse the problem and we are very focused on agreeing on a resolution that removes damaging tariffs, which will benefit businesses on both sides of the Atlantic.
âOn protocol, the United States shares our deep commitment to the Belfast Accord and the peace process.
“The measures we are taking are aimed at protecting the Good Friday Agreement and Northern Ireland’s place in the UK Single Market.”
The Northern Ireland Protocol was negotiated as part of the Brexit deal to avoid a hard border with Ireland, effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s single goods market.
But unionists have been pushing for it to be removed because of the trade barriers it has created on products crossing the Irish Sea from Britain.
The UK and the EU have been stuck in talks for months as they try to ease the protocol’s implementation.
In the Commons, Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt said International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan would discuss the tariff issue with her US counterparts next week.
âThese are two entirely separate issues,â Ms. Mordaunt said. âWe are doing ourselves a disservice if we perpetuate these false stories. “
A tariff of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum was initially imposed by the Trump administration in a dispute with the EU.
However, while Brussels and Washington reached an agreement in October to suspend tariffs, UK steel and aluminum exporters are still subject to the levies.
The UK’s retaliatory rights on US bourbon whiskey and other products also remain in place.