Irish PM warns of US-UK ‘trade war’ after Bombardier ‘lesson’

Ireland’s prime minister has warned of a full-blown UK-US trade war after Washington proposed to slap punitive tariffs on aerospace group Bombardier, saying the episode could serve as a salutary lesson for the British government about life after Brexit.

Leo Varadkar said the US move was a wake-up call on the difficulties in store for the UK, whose economic weight as a trading partner will be greatly diminished after it leaves the EU. 

“It could well turn out to be a lesson for the UK,” Mr Varadkar said ahead of a day-long summit of European leaders in Tallinn, Estonia on Friday. “There’s been a lot of talk of a new trade deal between the UK and the US and how great that would be for the UK but we are now talking about the possibility of a trade war.”

His comments came as Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, said it would require “miracles” for the EU to give the green light at its next summit in October to move past the current phase of divorce-focused Brexit talks to begin wide-ranging negotiations on a future relationship.

But some British officials are holding out hope that the two sides could nonetheless soon begin more urgent discussions on a two-year transition period that could delay Brexit’s full effect until 2021.

Referring to the issues raised by the Bombardier case, Mr Varadkar said: “Every country in the EU is a small country. We’re stronger together as a trading bloc.”

The US International Trade Commission will decide early next year whether to go ahead with tariffs of as much as 219 per cent on Canada’s Bombardier, which employs more than 4,000 people at its plants in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The city is a heartland of the Democratic Unionist party, which supports Theresa May’s Conservatives in the House of Commons.

The UK has threatened retaliation against Boeing, warning the company could lose out in winning government contracts if the dispute rumbles on.

Brussels has been closely following…

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