Boris Johnson ridiculed by British sock makers over claim they are locked out of US market

Prime minister puts his foot in it as firms deny latest bizarre trade rules rant - that US insists on trying to 'set fire' to their products

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Monday 23 September 2019 19:49
Conservative leadership race: Boris Johnson waves around a kipper

Sock makers have ridiculed a Boris Johnson claim that red tape locks them out of the US market, one alleging that anything the prime minister says is “likely not to be true”.

In his latest attack on regulations imposed by Washington, Mr Johnson claimed: “If you try to sell British socks in North America, they currently attract a 19 per cent tariff.

“And the Americans insist, before they allow British socks to be sold on the US market, that they must try to set fire to them twice.”

But Corgi Socks, a leading British manufacturer, insisted it was wrong to claim UK firms were penalised, saying: “We are at the upper end of the sock market and have a good USA business.

“Duty tariffs [with the US] are a bit of a barrier, regulations are not. We have no problem with regulations selling in the USA,” he told the POLITICO website.

And Rueven Fletcher, owner of the Sock Council, which describes itself as “a membership organisation that celebrates good socks,” also criticised the prime minister.

“My opinion is that if it comes out of Boris Johnson’s mouth it’s likely not to be true, you may quote me on that if it helps,” he said.

The backlash has echoes of accusations that the prime minister told porkies when he claimed Melton Mowbray pork pies could not be exported to the US because of “some sort of food and drug administration restriction”.

Mr Johnson argued the pies were sold in Thailand and Iceland – but the manufacturer insisted they were not exported anywhere outside the EU.

In July, he also came under attack for a false claim that “Brussels bureaucrats” are forcing kipper smokers to include ice packs with their products.

Running for the Tory leadership, he protested that producers in the Isle of Man were “furious” – but the European Commission pointed out the issue was “purely a UK national competence”.

The prime minister has insisted a post-Brexit US-UK trade deal can be struck, but has placed numerous UK demands as obstacles in the way of achieving it.

En route to the United Nations, before meeting the US president, he told reporters: “I will be making the point to President Trump, a point that I've made many times before, that we must tackle climate change together and we must tackle the loss of species together.

“But I will also be saying to President Trump is that, when we do a free trade deal, we must make sure that the NHS is not on the table, that we do not in any way prejudice or jeopardise our standards of animal welfare or food hygiene in the course of that deal. And that we open up American markets.”

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