The UK must not allow President Trump to “bully” his trading partners, the shadow international trade secretary has said, amid fears of a looming trade war over US tariffs on metals imports.
Labour’s Barry Gardiner called for a reaction to US levies on aluminium and steel from Europe and North America.
He said the government and EU should work closely on counter-measures.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said he hoped the US would think again and “tit-for-tat” action was an option.
The tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium, which affect the EU, Canada and Mexico, come into effect on Friday.
Mr Trump first announced the plans in March but granted some exemptions while countries negotiated. He justified the tariffs by arguing that US producers are vital to national security and were threatened by a global supply glut.
In a statement, Mr Gardiner said national security was being used as an excuse for the “unjustified” tariffs, which present a “grave threat” to thousands of UK jobs.
Speaking to the BBC News Channel, he said: “President Trump is a bully.
“He is trying to bully his trading partners into making concessions to America. This is a tactic that he has used successfully with other countries and the only way to deal with it is to stand up to a bully.
“It’s absolutely right – and the government should be working absolutely closely with the EU – to make sure that we put in place counter-measures.”
Leaders from other affected nations reacted furiously, setting out tariffs on the US, ranging from steel to sleeping bags and ballpoint pens.
Mr Fox said: “It’s very disappointing that the United States has chosen to apply steel and aluminium tariffs.
“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.”
He said he would speak to US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross on Monday but added the UK “absolutely do not rule out counter-measures”.
According to UK Steel – the body which represents steel producers across the country – 7% of steel exports, worth £360m, go to the US.
About 31,000 people across the UK work in steel production and many more in the supply chain. There are steel mills in north-east and northern England, the East Midlands and Wales.
Tata Steel, which employs 8,500 people across the UK, including 7,000 in Wales, has called for “swift and robust action” in response to the steel tariffs.
UK exports of aluminium to the US are tiny, but in March the UK’s Aluminium Federation said it was concerned about the impact 10% tariffs could have.
Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns spoke to the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, about the tariffs.
A Welsh government spokesman said: “The Secretary of State gave assurances that the UK government is fully committed to reaching a successful resolution.”