The Welsh Liberal Democrats have accused the Conservatives of ‘recklessly threatening the future of Welsh steel’ after it emerged that the US is delaying a deal to remove Trump-era tariffs on UK steel and aluminum because of concern in Washington’s over London’s threats to change post-Brexit trading rules in Northern Ireland.
Over recent months, both the EU and US have repeatedly warned the UK that any unilateral changes to the EU-UK agreement on Northern Ireland (Article 16) could threaten the Good Friday Agreement and result in serious consequences from both Brussels and Washington.
Now a row has erupted following a report by the Financial Times that disagreements between Washington and London over Article 16 are preventing the US from lifting steel tariffs on the UK.
The Trump-era tariffs of 25 per cent on steel products and 10 per cent on aluminium were imposed on the EU in 2018 when the UK was still part of the bloc. The US agreed to end the duties on EU products this autumn, but the tariffs have remained in place on British steel.
Wales produced approximately 4,070,000 tonnes of steel in 2020, down from approximately 5,180,000 tonnes in 2015. The iron and steel industries employed 6,420 people across Wales in 2015, with the primary steel industry and its supply chain accounting for close to 20,000 jobs.
Commenting Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds stated:
“Yet again we are seeing the Conservative rigid and inflexible Brexit ideology place Welsh jobs at risk. The steel sector is a vital employer in Wales, not just through the steel plants themselves, but also through the wider supply chain.
“These latest problems with the US come on top of pre-existing issues with the Tories post-Brexit deal with British steel exports to the EU have plunged by a third since 2015.
“This latest episode continues to demonstrate the recklessness of the Conservatives who prefer to reiterate empty slogans rather than get on with the job and tackle the problems faced by our country.
“The Conservatives urgently need to get their act together, stop threatening to trigger Article 16, stop damaging relations with allies and stop playing poker with Welsh jobs and the economy.”