Tata Steel: Minister still 'confident' on Port Talbot rescue

Tata Steel's Port Talbot plant at sunset Image copyright Reuters

Business Minister Anna Soubry has said she is "confident" Tata Steel's Port Talbot plant can be kept open despite uncertainty after the EU referendum.

In a special steel inquiry, MPs pointed to reports that Tata could withdraw the sale of the UK's biggest steelworks until it had clarity on Brexit.

"I'm not going to put out doom and gloom. I am going to be confident on this," Ms Soubry told MPs.

Ministers will do "everything to keep the blast furnaces" open, she said.

Indian owner Tata has received two known bids after it put its UK steel operations up for sale in March, putting 11,000 jobs at risk.

'Turned them around'

Business Secretary Sajid Javid will fly to Mumbai this week to meet Tata about the sale.

"The relationship we have with Tata, we should not be pessimistic," she said.

"We have certainly turned them around from the position in March, which is, they were going to close it all down."

She reiterated the government's commitment to help a sale by taking up to a 25% stake in Tata UK and help with the huge pension scheme.


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However, the minister rejected MPs' suggestions that Tata UK and other steelmakers could benefit outside the European Union.

MPs suggested that as an "industry in crisis", steelmakers should receive government aid - such as tariffs on cheap Chinese steel - which had previously been blocked under EU rules.

Ms Soubry, who campaigned to remain in the EU, replied that such a move would be difficult if the UK wanted to stay in the single market.

"I can't imagine the EU would allow us to have access to the single market, but not make us party to the state aid rules," she said.

She added that "tariff wars" were not the right way to tackle the industry's problems.

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