An MP has said he “doesn’t believe” the reports about the “imminent demise” of Essar’s Stanlow oil refinery – and that “things are heading in the right direction” for the firm.
Justin Madders, MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, has responded to reports the UK’s second largest oil refinery could be close to collapse.
Essar, which owns the refinery providing around one sixth of the UK’s road fuel, is in discussions with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) over a huge VAT payment that was delayed due to the Covid pandemic.
Over the last 18 months, Essar Oil UK (EOUK), the firm owning the site, used the Government’s VAT deferral scheme, with media reports suggesting the urgent talks over a £356m payment meant it was on the brink of collapse.
However, in a statement released at the weekend, a spokesman for Essar said it had already repaid HMRC £547m leaving a balance of £223m, as part of the Government opt-in scheme available to all corporates in the UK.
The firm admitted it is seeking a “short extension” to the ‘Time to Pay’ (TTP) agreement with HMRC after its recovery from the pandemic proved to be “slower than predicted”.
However it said the discussion with the Government were “positive” – and that it “looks forward to a resolution soon”.
Striking a similar tone, on Sunday, Mr Madders tweeted to say: “Having spoken with the company today I don’t believe the headlines about their imminent demise are warranted- things are heading in the right direction and discussions have been positive with HMRC.”
Stanlow is Britain’s second largest refinery and supplies one-sixth of the country’s road fuel.
It is owned by tycoon brothers Shashi and Ravi Ruia, through their company EOUK.
The company, which employs 1,700 people, said “positive discussions are ongoing” – and that it “remains confident in its future”.
A statement released late on Saturday added: “All companies under the TTP have been given until January 2022 to meet their commitments.
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“EOUK had agreed to an accelerated schedule to make this payment. However, the recovery from the pandemic has been slower than predicted.
“EOUK is therefore in discussions with HMRC over a short extension to make those deferred VAT payments. Those discussions are positive and EOUK looks forward to a resolution soon.”
It comes as the country faces a fuel crisis, with BP, Esso and Tesco forced to close a number of their petrol stations on Friday due to in part, a lack of HGV drivers to deliver the fuel
Petrol stations across the country have seen long queues of people rushing to fill up their cars despite pleas from the government to buy fuel “as usual” and not to panic buy.
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