THE closure of the UK’s last blast furnaces in south Wales, with the loss of nearly 3,000 jobs, is devastating for the local community. Perhaps more than any other part of the world, the North East understands what job losses on this scale can do to the psyche of an area, and we hope that the people of Port Talbot, including those still at school, get all the help they need to chart an employment path in place where everything has suddenly changed.

The UK itself is on the verge of an interesting, perhaps dangerous, experiment. We will become the only one of the G20 group of the world’s leading economies not to be producing virgin steel from ore.

The electric arc furnaces that are coming to Tata, and Scunthorpe, are effectively recyclers: they melt down old steel to turn it into new.

We export some of our scrap steel so there should be plenty to recycle, but the output of the arc furnaces is not top grade steel. Their product cannot be used in the car industry, which requires virgin steel, so we are going to have import it – and China is far and away the biggest exporter of steel.

Blast furnaces are desperately filthy and need to go. Their closure will cut Wales’ carbon emissions by 20 per cent and the UK’s by 1.5 per cent – a big saving.

But it is a fake saving if all we are doing is importing virgin steel from somewhere like China which does not worry about net zero concepts. We are fooling ourselves if we think we are going green.

More importantly, our Government talks about “energy security” and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine showed how foolish Europe was to rely on cheap Russian gas. No one talks about “steel security” – how vulnerable are we going to find ourselves because of this closure decision in decades to come?

Would it not have been better to have had a green steel strategy in which we led the world in finding a new technology and then shutting our old furnaces down?