MoD threatens to stop buying from Boeing over Bombardier spat

The Ministry of Defence has threatened to stop buying military equipment from Boeing in an escalating US trade dispute that has put thousands of UK jobs at risk.

The US has slapped a tariff of nearly 220% on Bombardier's new passenger jet. Picture: Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said the aerospace giant’s complaint to the US authorities about state subsides paid to Canadian manufacturer Bombardier by the UK and Canada was not the behaviour he expected of a long-term trading partner.

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His comments came after Boeing’s petition resulted in a ruling by the US Department of Commerce that could potentially have a devastating impact on Bombardier’s 4,200 workforce in Northern Ireland and thousands more in the 800-plus UK and Irish companies involved in its supply chain.

Bombardier employs more than 4,000 people in Belfast. Picture: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

The department has proposed a huge 220 per cent tariff on the imported sale of Bombardier’s new C-Series jets into the US – an aircraft whose wings are made in Belfast.

The US International Trade Commission will decide in February whether to uphold or reject the proposed tariff.

Boeing currently has defence contracts with the UK worth around £8 billion, including for the supply of Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft destined for RAF Lossiemouth in Moray.

Bombardier employs more than 4,000 people in Belfast. Picture: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

“This is not the behaviour we expect of Boeing and could indeed jeopardise our future relationship,” Sir Michael said on a visit to Belfast.

“Boeing stand to gain a lot of British defence spending. We have contracts in place with Boeing for new maritime patrol aircraft and for Apache attack helicopters and they will also be bidding for other defence work and this kind of behaviour clearly could jeopardise our future relationship with Boeing.”

The Ministry of Defence stressed that existing contracts with Boeing would be honoured.

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The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which the Tories rely on to swing key Commons votes for the Government, has repeatedly pressed the Prime Minister over the issue.

Sir Michael said the Government would fight for jobs in Belfast “irrespective of the politics”.

Earlier Mrs May, who has directly lobbied US President Donald Trump over the dispute, expressed regret at the decision. “Bitterly disappointed by initial Bombardier ruling,” she tweeted. “The Government will continue to work with the company to protect vital jobs for Northern Ireland.”