Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that it’s reasonable for UK steel to enjoy the “same protections” other European steel economies have.
The UK steel industry has been experiencing “a difficult time,” partly as a result of high energy prices, Johnson told reporters at the Group of Seven summit in the Bavarian Alps on Sunday.
“We have a system in the UK where we don’t privilege our industry in the way that some other countries do,” Johnson said. “They pay a very high price for energy, we need to fix that.”
The prime minister was responding to reports that he is ready to break World Trade Organization rules by imposing new tariffs on steel. The Sunday Telegraph reported that Johnson was preparing measures designed to protect UK manufacturers from a “flood of cheap steel” from overseas, steps that it said could appeal to voters in traditionally Labour-voting steel-producing areas.
“We need British Steel to be provided with much cheaper energy and cheap electricity for its blast furnaces,” said Johnson. “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.”
Johnson said the difficulty was in addressing the issue while remaining within WTO obligations. “But these are tough choices that you have to make,” he added.
Asked about the reports, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said the government was still looking at the matter, and suggested that no final decision had been taken.
“It’s looking to get the balance right in how we trade with our international partners, but also supporting jobs and sectors here in the UK,” Lewis told the BBC.