Port Talbot (UK), Apr 22: To Mark Turner, the Tata Steel plant in this small Welsh town isn’t just a factory. The steel worker sees two dragons, the plant’s blast furnaces, breathing fire into the dawn sky over a town where monks first built a forge in the Middle Ages. While his description may be the most colourful, he isn’t alone in talking about Britain’s largest steelworks as a living entity, the pulsating soul of the community. “It’s romantic … The breath of Port Talbot,” he said. “If those dragons die, the breath of Port Talbot is taken away. That’s Port Talbot gone. That’s how we feel about our plant.”(Also Read: US lashes out at China for global steel market crisis) Also Read - WHAT? UK Woman in Dubai Says 'F*** You' to Flatmate on WhatsApp, Faces 2 Year in Jail
Keeping the dragons alive has been the talk of the town since Tata Steel, a company based in India, announced plans to sell its UK businesses, which were losing 1 million pounds (USD 1.4 million) a day amid high costs and a glut of cheap Chinese steel in global markets. That raised fears the plant would close if Tata couldn’t find a buyer, eliminating 4,000 jobs and severing the economic lifeline of the town. Tata’s announcement has thrown the troubles of the British steel industry into sharp relief, triggering criticism that Prime Minister David Cameron’s government has been slow to respond. Port Talbot is the third British steel plant to face closure since last fall. Also Read - PM Boris Johnson Delays Schools Reopening Amid High COVID-19 Death Rate in UK
Steel production in Britain, which pioneered the business during the Industrial Revolution, dropped from almost 28 million tons in 1970 to 12 million tons in 2013, a decline that accelerated after the 2008 financial crisis. Meanwhile, global steel output jumped 96 percent from 2000 to 2014, driven mostly by China, which produced about 779 million tons in the latest year. While British steelmakers and politicians have criticised China for selling steel at less than the cost of production, the government has been reluctant to ask the European Union to impose duties on Chinese steel because doing so might trigger retaliatory tariffs from Beijing and raise costs for other industries. Also Read - COVID New Strain: Govt Extends Restrictions on Flights Between India and UK Till February 14
The government said Thursday that it was prepared to take a 25 percent stake in any rescue of Tata. While no buyer has announced a bid, British media reported this week that Port Talbot’s management planned to make an offer. David Blackaby, an expert on the Welsh economy at Swansea University, said the government’s biggest problem is that it lacks an industrial strategy, so it has a hard time responding in a crisis.