LONDON – Britain’s failure to end a long-standing steel dispute with Washington puts jobs and livelihoods at risk, unions have warned.

The National Federation of Trade Unions of England and Wales – alongside the three unions representing steelworkers – has urged the UK Trade Department to act after further punishing tariffs on UK steelmakers.

As of the beginning of this month, the Donald Trump-era tariffs on steel imports into the United States no longer apply to the EU under a deal between Brussels and Washington. But the United States has refused to make the same deal with Britain as Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit status remains uncertain, putting British steel at a disadvantage.

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trade Union Congress, said roles could disappear in the sector unless Britain strikes a deal with Washington.

“We are concerned about reports that the United States may stall due to the United Kingdom’s failure to meet commitments made under the Northern Ireland Protocol,” she told POLITICO. “Ministers must act in good faith on the international agreements they have reached because this endangers jobs in the UK.”

Alun Davies, the national head of the Community steelworkers union, said the government “urgently” needs to reach a deal to remove tariffs. “Our steel industry was already at a competitive disadvantage due to higher electricity prices than our European competitors, and maintaining these tariffs only exacerbates the problem,” he added.

“The UK steel industry is the backbone of the UK economy, providing quality jobs, supporting communities and supporting key industries. We need the government to properly support the industry by creating a level playing field. “

The Unite union, which also represents steelworkers, said the failure to resolve the tariff issue was “potentially disastrous” for the industry. National Officer Harish Patel said the US market is huge for British steel, with the industry exporting millions of tonnes each year.

Before Trump imposed the tariffs under the guise of national security, the UK in 2017 sent 350,000 tonnes of steel to the United States in 2020, which had dropped to 200,000 tonnes.

“The British government must immediately ensure that tariffs on British steel are lifted,” Patel said. “If he is not in a position to do so, he must explain all the reasons why the EU got the tariff lifted but the UK failed.”

Ross Murdoch, the national official of the GMB union, said: “Tariffs on UK steel exports pose a critical threat to the future of our industry. The government’s failure to negotiate the same terms as the EU deal is already hurting steel, and without a remedy our exports risk being uncompetitive. Ministers must get agreement to urgently lift tariffs. “

International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan held talks on the issue in Washington last month but failed to secure a breakthrough. She invited US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo for further talks in London this month, although she did not receive a response to the invitation. Some on the American side expect a Raimondo trip not to take place this month and the box to be launched.

The UK Commerce Department said ministers were working to resolve the dispute as quickly as possible and highlighted independent government support for the steel sector since 2013. It also reiterated the threat that Britain could increase its own retaliatory tariffs on American products.

“We recognize the vital role the steel sector plays in our economy, and our priority is to resolve this conflict for the benefit of workers and businesses on both sides of the Atlantic,” said a spokesperson.