Europe

Struggling steel sparks political, economic crisis in UK

  • The Tata steel plant  dominates the skyline over the roof tops of Port Talbot, Wales, Wednesday March 30, 2016. UK authorities say they will look at all viable options to keep the British steel industry at the heart of its manufacturing base after Tata Steel announced it may sell its UK assets. The sale could put thousands of jobs at risk.  (Andrew Matthews/PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT

    The Tata steel plant dominates the skyline over the roof tops of Port Talbot, Wales, Wednesday March 30, 2016. UK authorities say they will look at all viable options to keep the British steel industry at the heart of its manufacturing base after Tata Steel announced it may sell its UK assets. The sale could put thousands of jobs at risk. (Andrew Matthews/PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT  (The Associated Press)

  • The sun sets as smoke and steam rises from the Tata steel plant in Port Talbot, Wales, Wednesday March 30, 2016, after the steel giant confirmed plans to sell its UK assets. After a meeting at the company's headquarters in Mumbai, India, Tata Steel said Wednesday it is seeking a buyer for its UK steel making plants, an announcement which shocked steel workers, industry unions, and the British government who have appealed for time to save the country's biggest steel maker. (Andrew Matthews  / PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT - NO SALES - NO ARCHIVES

    The sun sets as smoke and steam rises from the Tata steel plant in Port Talbot, Wales, Wednesday March 30, 2016, after the steel giant confirmed plans to sell its UK assets. After a meeting at the company's headquarters in Mumbai, India, Tata Steel said Wednesday it is seeking a buyer for its UK steel making plants, an announcement which shocked steel workers, industry unions, and the British government who have appealed for time to save the country's biggest steel maker. (Andrew Matthews / PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT - NO SALES - NO ARCHIVES  (The Associated Press)

The British government is scrambling to save the country's struggling steel industry after Tata Steel announced plans to sell its U.K. plants, which employ almost 20,000 people.

Prime Minister David Cameron is holding a crisis meeting at 10 Downing St. Thursday.

Tuesday's decision by the Indian company appeared to catch authorities by surprise. Cameron was on vacation in the Canary Islands, while Business Secretary Sajid Javid was in Australia.

Javid said the steel industry "is absolutely vital for the country and we will look at all viable options" to save it.

The opposition Labour Party has urged the government to nationalize the steel industry, but Javid said "I don't think nationalization is going to be the solution."

Tata's British operations are losing 1 million pounds ($1.4 million) a day.