International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said the UK would not rule out counter-measures over the 'patently absurd' tariffs
British politicians condemned Donald Trump's 'counterproductive' steel tariffs today amid mounting fears of a trade war.
The US president's punitive duties on imports - primarily aimed at China but also hitting allies like the EU and Canada - have come into force despite a wave of protests.
Ministers are scrambling to find ways to protect the UK steel industry - which employs more than 30,000 people.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox is coming under increasing pressure to join retaliation after refusing to rule out counter-measures yesterday.
Brussels has warned it will not back down under 'threat' from Mr Trump.
And shadow trade secretary Barry Gardiner today urged the government to respond 'strongly' to show the UK will not be 'cowed or bullied' by the US.
However, Tory former Cabinet minister Lord Maude warned against engaging in 'tit for tat' with America.
'I think the proper reaction is first of all to say this is stupid, it's counterproductive, that any government that embarks on a protectionist path inflicts the most damage on itself,' he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
'The inevitable result of putting these tariffs on imports will be to increase prices on consumer goods for its own citizens.'
He added: 'You can't have this thing that we see them doing something that's stupid and unreasonable and therefore we do something stupid and unreasonable ourselves.'
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 EU commission chief Jean-Claude 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