Britain will extend a package of quotas and tariffs on foreign steel imports by two years in an effort to protect domestic steelmakers, trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan has announced.
Trevelyan admitted that the move would risk a legal challenge at the World Trade Organization, which oversees global trade, but said it was essential to protect Britain’s steel industry.
“We have concluded that it is in the economic interest of the UK to maintain the safeguards to reduce the risk of material harm if they were not maintained,” she told the House of Commons.
The government will extend existing steel tariffs, largely on developed countries and China, by a further two years. At the same time it will expand import limits to other, mostly developing, countries — which were previously exempt — to prevent a flood of steel imports.
Trevelyan said that Ukraine would not be included in that decision in order to help its steel industry.
The UK inherited “safeguard” measures in 2018 while it was part of the EU and has since rolled over most of them.
The limits, which apply to 15 categories of steel, restrict how much a country can export to Britain before being hit with a 25 per cent tariff.
Nick Thomas-Symonds, shadow trade secretary, welcomed the decision, saying it would provide “welcome relief” to the steel industry, but criticised the government for not moving faster.
Lord Christopher Geidt quit this month as Boris Johnson’s ethics adviser citing his disapproval of the plan to breach international law through the steel tariffs.