UK steel crisis
The job losses at Caparo follows the closure of SSI in Redcar and an expected announcement from Tata of severe job losses Getty

The UK is turning to the European Union for help as the local steel industry is on the brink of collapse with thousands of workers at local plants facing unemployment. Business secretary Sajid Javid is set to call for an emergency EU meeting to discuss the state of the steel industry in the bloc.

"I want to see steel top of the EU agenda. We cannot stand by while the steel industry across Europe, not just in the UK faces unprecedented challenges," he said.

"There are no straightforward solutions to the complex global challenges but the UK government wants to work with the EU and our European partners to do all we can to support our steel industry," Javid said.

He will bring up the issue of unfair steel imports with EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom. The business secretary is also scheduled to meet the Industry and Internal Market Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska to ask her to bring forward a clear strategy to support industrial competitiveness which focuses on creating the right market framework by deepening the single market.

The business secretary will also raise steel within the wider context of the commission's work on the single market and industry with Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen. Javid is expected to present a number of protectionist measures to combat "unfair trade practices" which includes the dumping of cheap steel by China. The measures are aimed not just at protecting the British steel industry but also European producers.

Thousands face unemployment as job culls are announced at Tata Steel and SSI in Redcar, Scunthorpe and Scotland, while steel processing company Caparo Industries has gone into administration. The failing industry has widely been blamed on cheap imports and higher energy costs.

The business secretary is also in talks with the European Commission to push for the approval of the UK's Energy Intensive Industries compensation scheme, which helps struggling steelmakers. The scheme, which is awaiting EU state-aid approval is due to be introduced from next April but the government is hoping for the programme to be introduced earlier.

Scotland's top priority: Find new owners for 2 steel plants

Meanwhile, the Scotland's Business Minister Fergus Ewing has promised that the government's top priority was to find a new owner for Tata Steel's two plants in Clydebridge and Dalzell, to ensure that commercial steel production continues.

"We are as a government determined to use all our resources, devote our individual time and attention as ministers and do absolutely everything that we can to prevent the loss of steel making in Scotland. We are aware that this task is not an easy one and there are significant challenges facing the continued production of steel in Scotland."

Ewing, who made a statement to the MSPs said that although the Scottish government has said it will cooperate with the UK government, he said it was "disappointing" that the government did not agree to allow Scottish ministers to participate in EU discussions "which may affect Scotland's interests in the preservation of a key industry."

Labour says nationalise Scottish steel industry

Following his speech, Scottish Labour MSP James Kelly urged the Scottish government to consider nationalising the country's remaining steel operations. "The SNP government spends billions of pounds every year on public contracts, so at the steel task force on Thursday, the SNP should identify which contracts can use Scottish steel.

"Nothing should be off the table for Scottish steel. The SNP government stepped in to take Prestwick Airport into public hands. This option must be on the table for Clydebridge and Dalzell. Anything less would be unacceptable," he added.

Gareth Stace, the director of trade body UK Steel said that a fifth of the industry's UK workforce has lost their jobs or facing redundancy. "If we were a patient on an operating table, we are bleeding very quickly. And we are likely to die on that table," he warned.