Theresa May 'too weak' to stand up to Trump over steel tariffs, Jeremy Corbyn says

Labour leader accuses prime minister of 'appeasing' US President amid row over trade levies

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 05 June 2018 00:11 BST
Theresa May told Donald Trump she was 'deeply disappointed' with his decision on steel tariffs
Theresa May told Donald Trump she was 'deeply disappointed' with his decision on steel tariffs (EPA)

Jeremy Corbyn has accused Theresa May of being “too weak” to stand up to Donald Trump over the US President’s decision to impose tariffs on European steel and aluminium.

The Labour leader criticised what he called the government’s “timid response” to the move, claiming it was proof that the Conservatives "are simply too weak to stand up to the powerful”.

Ms May and Mr Trump will meet at the G7 meeting in Canada later this week amid widespread condemnation of the US President’s decision to impose a 25 per cent levy on European steel and 10 per cent levy on European aluminium.

The move has left the US and the EU on the verge of a trade war, with Brussels referring the matter to the World Trade Organisation and threatening retaliatory action.

Speaking at the GMB trade union's conference in Brighton, Mr Corbyn will accuse Ms May of trying to “appease Donald Trump in the hope of getting a race-to-the-bottom trade deal with the US” – something he will call a “Tory pipe-dream”.

He is expected to say: “US President Donald Trump’s latest unilateral steel tariffs are wrong. The Trump tariffs risk hurting workers in the United States and around the world by sparking tit-for-tat retaliation."

Ms May has called Mr Trump's decision “unjustified” and vowed to work with the EU to seek exemptions from the tariffs.

She said: “I am deeply disappointed at the unjustified decision by the US to apply tariffs to EU steel and aluminium imports.

“The US, EU and UK are close allies and have always promoted values of open and fair trade across the world. Our steel and aluminium industries are hugely important to the UK, but they also contribute to US industry including in defence projects which bolster US national security.”

In a phone call with Mr Trump, Ms May said she was “deeply disappointed” with his decision.

However, Mr Corbyn will claim the prime minister has consistently shown she is “too weak to stand up to Trump.”

He will say: “The Tory government’s timid response shamefully fails to stand up to Trump.

“We’ve now seen it time and time again. Theresa May and her government were too weak to stand up to Trump over the Muslim ban, or his promotion of the disgusting Britain First, or his plunging the future of the planet into ever greater danger by pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Accord, or his punitive tariffs on Bombardier, or his ripping up of the Iran nuclear deal, or his reckless threat to peace by recognising Jerusalem, including occupied Palestinian territory, as Israel’s capital.

“The Tories are too weak to stand up to the powerful, and too in hock to them even if they wanted to. Theresa May is appeasing Donald Trump in the hope of getting a race-to-the-bottom trade deal with the US after we leave the European Union. The Trump trade tariffs show that’s a Tory pipe-dream.”

Mr Trump’s decision to impose tariffs is a major blow to hopes of a post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and the US. Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, called the move “patently absurd”.

Mr Corbyn will also criticise the US President but will suggest he understands the desire among US workers for action to support the steel industry and other sectors, claiming the American system is “completely rigged” in favour of the elite.

He will say: “US workers, whether in steel or any other industry, are not wrong to want a government that actively supports them and the real, everyday economy. For forty years, they’ve seen a completely rigged system shift more and more power and wealth to a tiny financial and political elite.

“Donald Trump’s government doesn’t support workers. Trying to hold back the tide with one hand and giving eye-watering handouts to the super rich with the other is no substitute for a government taking a proactive role in modernising and upgrading industry so that it’s cleaner, more efficient and works for the many not the few.”

Suggesting this is also the case in Britain, Mr Corbyn will promise that a Labour government would “upgrade our economy by taking on the power of the tiny elite that’s holding us back with their failed free market fundamentalism.”

Mr Corbyn will also use the speech to announce that all Labour Party staff will be paid at least £10 an hour – the level at which the party has pledged to set the minimum wage.

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