No 10 willing to break international law to protect British steel, Boris Johnson suggests

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Boris Johnson has suggested he would be willing to break international law to protect the British steel industry, despite the resignation of his ethics advisor over the Government’s willingness to do so.

The Prime Minister said it was reasonable for UK steel to enjoy the “same protections” that other European steel economies have, even if it breaches trade obligations.

Lord Geidt, Mr Johnson’s ethics advisor, resigned last week over the Government’s “openness” to breaking international law, which he viewed as also breaching the ministerial code.

Last June, the Trade Remedies Authority (TRA) recommended that the UK cut its tariffs in half on foreign steel because there was no “legal basis” for extending them, and gave the Government until the end of this month to respond.

Steel industry is ‘going through a difficult time’

When asked about reports that he was prepared to break WTO rules by imposing sweeping new steel tariffs, Mr Johnson told reporters at the G7 summit in Germany that the UK’s steel industry had been “going through a difficult time” due to rising energy prices.

“We have a system in the UK where we don’t privilege our industry in the way that some other countries do,” he said, adding: “They pay a very high price for energy, we need to fix that.

“We need British steel to be provided with much cheaper energy and cheap electricity for its blast furnaces. But until we can fix that, I think it is reasonable for UK steel to have the same protections that other European, absolutely every other European steel economy does.” 

Mr Johnson noted that his ultimate aim would be to “take off those tariffs” and find “another solution”.

But he added: “The difficulty is, is that possible to do while staying within our WTO, our World Trade Organisation obligations? That’s the problem. But these are tough choices that you have to make.”

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