Thursday, 20 Jan 2022

Biden fires ‘warning shot’ at UK over Brexit as tensions boil – ‘not interested’

US steel tariffs a 'double edged sword' says steel company CEO

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US President Biden’s decision not to lift tariffs on UK steel and aluminium exports “is a consequence” of US “worries” about the Northern Ireland Protocol, trade expert Professor Michael Gasiorek has said. 25 percent tariffs on steel exports and 10 percent on aluminium exports were imposed by President Donald Trump when the UK was part of the European Union. While the EU and the US have now concluded an agreement that will see them lifted from 1 January, the tariffs on UK producers remain.

Speaking to Express.co.uk about the issue, Prof Gasiorek, Professor of Economics at the University of Sussex and specialist in international trade, said: “The influence of the Irish in United States politics is quite high, and there are real concerns about the stances being taken by the British Government in its dispute with the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“I mean it’s no coincidence that the US and the EU agreed to resolve their steel dispute a few weeks ago but didn’t with the UK.

“And it seems quite clear from comments made by American officials that, in part, this is a consequence about worries about what’s going on with Northern Ireland.

“And at the early stages, before Biden came into power, certainly the Johnson government and Liz Truss were touting a US-UK free trade agreement, as being top priority.

“That’s shifted very very low down the agenda, not on the UK’s side, but because America has made it quite clear that they’re not interested at this point.

“Biden is much more focused on his domestic agenda. He’s much less interested, generically, in trade agreements.

“And one with the UK is not a priority for him, plus the fact that there are concerns about UK action with regard to Northern Ireland.

“There is very little appetite currently in America for doing a free trade deal with the UK.”

“It’s not going to happen for a long time, I don’t think.

“A day is a long time in politics, as we know. If you have a different leader in the UK, you possibly have a different leader in America and things could change in three or four years time.”

Professor L. Alan Winters, Founding Director of the UK Trade Policy Observatory in the University of Sussex, added: “The issue of aluminium can be seen as a sort of warning shot from the United States.”

The issue, he said, stems from the fact that “historically, Congress has been fairly pro-Irish.”

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However, the UK government has dismissed claims that the issue is related to Brexit.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “It is important not to conflate those two issues. They are two separate points.

“On the steel tariffs, we are working quite closely with the Biden administration.

“It is encouraging that they are taking steps to de-escalate the issue and we are very focused on agreeing a resolution that removes damaging tariffs, which will benefit businesses on both sides of the Atlantic.

“On the protocol, the US shares our deep commitment to the Belfast Agreement and the peace process.

“The actions that we are taking are to protect the Good Friday Agreement and Northern Ireland’s place in the UK single market.”

Brexit Minister Lord Frost and European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic have been locked in talks over the Northern Ireland Protocol since October.

The Brexit Minister has demanded that the role of the European Court of Justice in policing the Protocol come to an end but the EU has so far refused to cave to his demands.

The Protocol was agreed as part of the withdrawal agreement to avoid a hard border in Ireland after the UK left the EU.

But because Northern Ireland remained within the EU’s single market for goods, a border was effectively created between Great Britain and Northern Ireland down the Irish Sea.

The Protocol has come under fire because of border checks on goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which have resulted in delays and supermarket shortages.

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