LONDON – Prime Minister Theresa May has urged US President Donald Trump to intervene in a major trade dispute in an attempt to protect thousands of jobs in Belfast at the request of the Democratic Unionist Party, The Times reports.
May had a phone call with Trump last week in which she pleaded with the president to intervene in a legal battle between two rival aircraft manufacturers that threatens to destroy thousands of jobs in Northern Ireland.
The dispute involves the American aircraft manufacturer Boeing and its Canadian rival Bombardier. Boeing has accused Bombardier of receiving unfair state support for its C-series plan, including a loan worth £113 million, or $150 million, given to it by the British government.
The US-based International Trade Commission is set to make an initial ruling on the case later this month. If, as analysts predict, the Commission rules against Bombardier, the company’s Belfast factory may be forced to close, putting 4,500 jobs at risk.
The Times report adds that May requested Trump’s help at the request of Arlene Foster, the DUP leader whose support May is reliant on to run a functioning government. May pledged to give the Northern Irish party £1 billion in exchange for a “confidence and supply” deal in which the DUP’s 10 members of Parliament would back the government on key legislation.
Officials cited by The Times described the phone call as “constructive” and denied reports that ministers were worried the dispute threatened to jeopardise a post-Brexit UK-US free-trade deal. “I think the Trump administration is taking some time to think this through,” an unnamed government source said.
Business Secretary Greg Clark has also become involved in the dispute. The Tory minister visited Chicago last month to meet Boeing chiefs in an attempt to persuade them to drop the case.
A spokesman for the Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy said: “This is a commercial matter, but the UK government is working tirelessly to safeguard Bombardier’s operations and its highly skilled workers in Belfast.
“Ministers across government have engaged swiftly and extensively with Boeing, Bombardier, the US and Canadian governments. Our priority is to encourage Boeing to drop its case and seek a negotiated settlement with Bombardier.”