Boris Johnson vows to go ahead with ‘rule-breaking’ plan to protect Britain’s steel

The government is poised to impose sweeping new steel tariffs on a host of nations to woo Red Wall voters – but critics say it’s flouting World Trade Organization rules


British steel companies should benefit from “the same protections” as European rivals, Boris Johnson said, as he prepared to flout World Trade Organization rules.

The government is poised to impose sweeping new steel tariffs on a multitude of nations, a move touted as an attempt to woo Red Wall voters.

The Mirror reported last week how ministers wanted to extend measures for a further two years to prevent cheap foreign imports from flooding the UK market.

Plans to keep quotas and tariffs on some imports – which critics say go against World Trade Organization rules – contributed to Lord Geidt, Mr Johnson’s ethics adviser, resigning earlier this month.

Speaking at the G7 summit in Bavaria, Mr Johnson said: “I think it’s very important that people understand the context and that means the UK steel industry has been through a difficult time, partly because of energy prices, which I have about it talked.

Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie attend the first day of the G7 summit in Germany


(Getty Images)

“We have a system in the UK where we don’t privilege our industry like some other countries do.

“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 electricity for its blast furnaces, but until we can fix that I think it’s reasonable that British steel should have the same protection as other European steel, absolutely all other European steel – steel industry does.”

The prime minister opposed lifting the tariffs, saying: “I don’t think this is the right way, I would like a different solution.

“The difficulty is, is that possible while staying within our WTO, our World Trade Organization commitments? That’s the problem.

“But these are tough decisions to make.”

The prime minister’s chief ethics officer, Lord Geidt, has resigned in protest at Boris Johnson’s plans



Last week, trade body UK Steel warned that the easing of lockdown measures could deal a £150million hit to the sector.

Director-General Gareth Stace said at the time: “Government interventions will protect against expected surges in imports from trade diverted from US and EU markets, which will remain shielded for years to come.

“Such swings would have jeopardized jobs, investment and our ability to transition to net zero.

“With high-paying steel jobs concentrated in Yorkshire, Humberside and South Wales, maintaining protection is also vital to the Government’s ambitions.”

Nick Thomas Symonds, Shadow International’s Trade Secretary, said steel is “a vital sector to the UK’s national interest, as well as a cornerstone for jobs and communities across the country”.

The steel sector is worth £2.1 billion to the UK economy

He added: “Similar safeguards apply to the EU and the US.

“However, the government should do more to make our steel sector safe for future generations and have a plan to prevent further last-minute extensions of key measures.”

Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy first said in an interview with Sky News that the idea “can’t be right”.

But he changed his stance shortly after, telling the BBC: “I think it’s the extension he’s proposing…we would support him. Steel workers support him.

“The unions support him, industry supports him, Labor supports him.”

The Mirror has been running a Save Our Steel campaign since 2015.

The sector directly employs 33,700 workers and supports another 42,000 jobs in supply chains. It’s worth £2.1 billion to the UK economy.

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