ISTA petitions UK over Northern Irish steel tariffs

The International Steel Trade Association (ISTA) has written to UK cabinet member Michael Gove suggesting the 25pc import duty on non-European/UK steel into Northern Ireland is “grossly unfair” and puts its members at a disadvantage to European producers and traders.

The association also said it goes against the idea of a “level playing field” laid out in the European-UK free trade agreement. ISTA also said the Northern Ireland Protocol gives the government powers to introduce arrangements to negate the tariffs and it could use article 16 of the protocol to “introduce measures unilaterally to safeguard the market”.

Addressing an urgent question from Parliamentary Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party Jeffrey Donaldson in Parliament yesterday, Gove said the government was looking at ways for business to avoid paying the tariffs, “through either the quotas or appropriate rebates”. Industry participants have been told this could take six months or more.

Initially participants were told European steel sold into Northern Ireland would carry a 25pc duty. But this guidance has now been reversed, with European material having unfettered access with no quota or duty. Steel from Great Britain sold into Northern Ireland will be drawn down from the UK’s country quota under the European safeguard.

There has been a distinct lack of clarity over the situation for Northern Ireland’s steel imports, and customs arrangements, since the end of the Brexit transition period.

By Colin Richardson