Sunday 24 March 2019 1:09 pm

Workers face uncertain future as Ineos says it could be forced to close down Middlesbrough plant

Britain’s largest private company has told the government it could close a manufacturing plant in the north east, with over 2,000 jobs on the line.

The Middlesbrough plant, which makes acrylonitrile, a key component of acrylic clothes, is facing EU regulations which would cost the firm €100m.

Read more: Ineos takes over US white pigment producer in $700m deal

“As things stand, the decision in the new year will be to close the plant,” Ineos director Tom Crotty wrote in a letter to business secretary Greg Clark in October last year.

The letter, revealed this weekend by investigative outfit Unearthed, said the plant employs 350 people directly, but supports another 2,000 in the local community.

Crotty said a delay in the implementation of two pieces of EU environmental legislation could help keep the plant – which he said is only breaking even – alive.

“In order to meet the deadlines, we would need to approve this expenditure early in 2019 and we can see no financial justification for this,” Crotty said.

He warned that closing the plant would lead to the UK importing products to replace those made in Middlesbrough from countries with worse environmental standards.

“We have the crazy position of closing a UK asset and losing jobs in order to implement the waste incineration directive to protect the environment when the long-term impact will not only damage the UK economy, but also the global environment,” Crotty wrote.

Ineos bought the plant, founded by agrochemicals giant Monsanto, in 2008, a year after a chemical leak injured dozens of workers at the site.

A spokesperson for Ineos told Unearthed that no decision has been taken on the plant’s future and it remains in “constructive discussion” with the government and the Environment Agency.

It is not the first time that the firm, founded by Britain’s richest man Sir Jim Ratcliffe, has hit out at EU environmental regulations.

Read more: Ineos boss: Green taxes are killing European investment

Last month Ratcliffe called the bloc’s green taxes “foolish” in a letter to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

He said the taxes would push investors away from Europe and towards countries like China, which have laxer environmental standards.