International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said the UK would not rule out counter-measures over the 'patently absurd' tariffs
Britain threatened retaliation last night as Donald Trump triggered a global trade war.
The US President's decision to hit the European Union with tariffs on steel and aluminium sparked fury as Brussels warned it would not back down under 'threat' from the US President.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, who spoke to the US commerce secretary yesterday, said the UK would not rule out counter-measures over the 'patently absurd' tariffs.
Meanwhile, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker called for the EU to respond by boosting ties with Russia – a move likely to cause discomfort in Downing Street.
Theresa May had led calls for Mr Trump to exclude the bloc from any measures in order to protect the resurgent British steel industry.
The President's decision to pursue his 'America First' programme will raise concerns about deteriorating transatlantic relations.
Under the measures, British and EU companies will be levied with duties of 25 per cent on steel imports to the US from today, as well as 10 per cent on aluminium.
Last night Dr Fox told Sky News the tariffs were 'very disappointing', adding: 'In the case of the United Kingdom, where we send steel to the United States that is vital for their businesses and their defence industry, it is patently absurd.
'We absolutely do not rule out counter-measures. And we do not rule out taking a dispute to the World Trade Organisation at Geneva. Obviously, we still hope the United States will think again about this. But it would be a great pity if we ended up in a tit-for-tat trade dispute with our closest allies.'
The tariffs were initially announced earlier this year but Brussels, which negotiates trade matters on the UK's behalf, won temporary exemptions that were due to expire today.
Yesterday Mr Juncker insisted the bloc would impose its own levies on the US, claiming: 'What they can do, we are able to do exactly the same.' But his comments about greater links to Russia in response will cause unease across the EU. He said: 'There are so many areas, so many domains where we can co-operate in a better way with Russia, not forgetting what our differences are. This Russia-bashing has to be brought to an end.'
Mr Juncker described the US decision as 'totally unacceptable', while insisting the EU 'will not negotiate under threat'.
He said the bloc had 'no choice' but to take retaliatory