Boris Johnson’s “fast and loose” policy over Irish trading arrangements has been blamed for delays in removing US tariffs on British steel and aluminium.

Labour said the Prime Minister has been “more interested in saving his own job than he has been in saving jobs in the steel sector”, as they pressed the Government to give a timetable on when they expect a breakthrough on the matter.

The Opposition also raised concerns on the negotiations being affected by the Northern Ireland Protocol, which is aimed at avoiding a hard border with Ireland but has created a series of economic barriers on Irish Sea trade.

Talks between the US and UK to begin the removal of the tariffs, imposed by former president Donald Trump, began this week.

Shadow international trade secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds told the Commons: “If the Secretary of State can’t even confirm the Prime Minister has picked up the phone to the United States President about this, aren’t people right to conclude the Prime Minister is focused on saving himself and he doesn’t care about steel workers’ jobs?”

Mr Thomas-Symonds said the tariffs “have already done great damage” and the “situation is urgent” because “the EU gained a competitive advantage” after the US lifted tariffs for member states.

He asked if “in advance of those talks the Prime Minister has raised this issue personally with President Biden”.

Mr Thomas-Symonds went on: “The truth is the Prime Minister has been more interested in saving his own job than he has been in saving jobs in the steel sector.”

International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said she has been “extremely robust” to move the issue along since taking the job, adding: “I am pleased that we have been able to launch these negotiations yesterday. It is important that we sort out and remove these unnecessary and burdensome tariffs on the UK.”

Ms Trevelyan added: “At every level of Government … we have been raising this with the US and we are therefore at the point where we are now starting negotiations which will move at pace.”

Labour MP Sir Mark Hendrick (Preston) asked: “Given the fact that the Prime Minister is playing fast and loose with security policy on Northern Ireland, in particular the way he is doing his best to trash the Northern Ireland Protocol, what chance does she think we have of getting those tariffs dropped?”

Ms Trevelyan said: “We will be pushing for a deal that is right for the UK steel industry.

“I am confident the long-standing alliance between the UK and the US, which is built on a rich history of shared values and free and fair trade, will ensure that the negotiation outcomes are what we need for UK industry.”

Updating MPs on the progress of the negotiations, Ms Trevelyan earlier said the tariffs have cost the industry more than £60 million per year and expressed her hopes for swift progress to resolve the matter.

But Labour MP Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) said: “The European Union secured a comprehensive exemption from the (section) 232 steel tariffs way back on October 30 last year.

“Here we are almost three months later and talks with the UK Government are only just starting.”

He said the probable cause for the delay is the UK Government’s “shambolic handling” of the Northern Ireland Protocol.