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Theresa May’s deputy rebukes Trump over trade war threat to EU

Cabinet Office minister David Lidington said ‘trade wars don’t do anybody any good’.

Theresa May’s de facto deputy has rebuked United States president Donald Trump for threatening a trade war with the European Union.

Mr Trump has said the US “will simply apply a TAX” on cars made in Europe if the EU retaliates against trade penalties he is seeking on imports of steel and aluminium.

Cabinet Office minister David Lidington told BBC One’s Sunday Politics programme: “I just think that the United States is not taking an advisable course in threatening a trade war.

“Trade wars don’t do anybody any good.”

Brussels is promising retaliation against American exports if Mr Trump follows through on his idea, which he is warning he will do next week.

But the president has responded on Twitter: “If the EU wants to further increase their already massive tariffs and barriers on US companies doing business there, we will simply apply a Tax on their Cars which freely pour into the US. They make it impossible for our cars (and more) to sell there. Big trade imbalance!”

Mr Lidington suggested the American authorities could overrule any tariffs, as they did in the case of aircraft manufacturer Bombardier when Mr Trump’s administration threatened huge duties on its C-wing planes.

The minister said: “We’ll have to see what happens, I mean there was a lot of concerns recently about something comparable with regards aviation and the aircraft that were being produced in part by Bombardier in Belfast in Northern Ireland, and the American authorities at the end of the day struck that down, they said no that is not the way that we should be going.”

And he warned Mr Trump that Britain’s experience showed his plan would not work.

“We tried in Britain in the 60s and 70s protecting our car industry from competition,” Mr Lidington said.

“It actually didn’t work, it protected inefficiencies, we lost all our export markets because our competitors who were more competitive went out and gobbled those up from us, and the car industry had to go through a very, very painful restructuring to get to the success story it is now.”

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