Tariffs on steel imports from China and other countries are to be extended for another two years, the UK government has announced.
It said it was necessary to protect the domestic steel industry from a flood of cheap imports.
The move comes despite reservations expressed by Boris Johnson’s former ethics adviser Christopher Geidt that steel tariffs could put Britain at risk of breaching World Trade Organization rules.
He cited the issue as a matter of concern in his letter of resignation 12 days ago.
Although he subsequently clarified his remarks, saying the issue was a “distraction” from his real reasons for resigning, Lord Geidt told the Daily Telegraph the tariff policy proposal “was simply one example of what might yet constitute deliberate breaches by the United Kingdom of its obligations under international law”.
Tariffs were initially imposed as part of an EU “safeguarding” measure in 2018 and were reimposed last year by the UK.
Many steel factories are in “red wall” constituencies such as Scunthorpe and south Wales that are critical to the government’s general election prospects.
The government issued a briefing paper before the announcement explaining the risk that “importation in increased quantities would be like to recur if they were not subject to a tariff rate quota” and whether “injury” would occur to the domestic industry.