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UK steel: Business secretary seeks emergency EU talks



The UK business secretary has called for an emergency EU meeting to discuss the crisis in the steel industry.
Sajid Javid, who will meet European commissioners on Wednesday to discuss the sector, has been contacting member states on the need for urgent action.
The move comes as steel workers prepare to lobby MPs after thousands of jobs were lost at plants in recent weeks.
The industry blames cheap Chinese imports and high energy costs for the collapse in steel prices.
'Unprecedented challenges'
Mr Javid is expected to raise concerns over unfair steel imports with EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom.
He will also meet Industry and Internal Market Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska and Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen.
"I want to see steel top of the EU agenda," Mr Javid said.
"We cannot stand by while the steel industry across Europe, not just in the UK, faces such unprecedented challenges.
"The government wants to work with the EU and our European partners to do all we can to support our steel industry," he added.
The government says Mr Javid also had positive talks with the competition commissioner on the compensation scheme for energy-intensive industries.
The scheme, which is awaiting EU state-aid approval, is due to be introduced from next April.
It is understood that the government is hopeful of movement on the issue within weeks. That could lead to it being introduced earlier.
Thousands of job losses have been announced in the sector in recent weeks with the collapse of SSI in Redcar, Cleveland, and cutbacks at Tata Steel in North Lincolnshire and in Lanarkshire.
Workers from several steelmaking communities including Teesside, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire and south Wales are expected to lobby MPs at Westminster on Wednesday ahead of an opposition day debate on the crisis brought by the Labour Party.
The main steel union is also calling for a meeting with the government amid what it says is an "ongoing threat to jobs".
It has emerged that unions have not yet been invited to participate in three industry working groups, established after a steel summit earlier in October.
In a letter to the business secretary, seen by the BBC, the Community Union's general secretary Roy Rickhuss said: "Considering the urgency of the situation, and the ongoing threat to jobs and businesses across the UK, I believe it is important you meet with representatives of the steel unions at the earliest opportunity to discuss recent events and how we might work together in support of the industry."
The steel industry wants action from the government on high energy prices and business rates.
It also wants more local sourcing of steel, and moves to prevent the dumping of Chinese steel on EU markets.
It is facing millions of pounds of costs to comply with new EU emissions regulations.
But its now likely that several key UK steel plants will be given up to four-and-a-half years longer to meet the emissions requirements.
The plan has been submitted to the European Commission for approval.
On Tuesday, MPs on the Commons Business Select Committee were warned the industry would need help within weeks.
Gareth Stace of the trade body, Steel UK, described the industry as being like a patient on the operating table which is "likely to die" without urgent help.