In a move that will put added pressure on the Irish Government, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has pledged to part-nationalise Waterford Wedgwood’s Stoke base if necessary, as a deal with an American private equity firm reportedly edges closer.

The Labour leader will give any potential purchaser – most likely US private equity firm KPS Capital – exchequer support to help retain jobs in Staffordshire, including underwriting loans and funding skills training.

However, though a Socialist Party petition to bring the 250-year-old pottery firm into public ownership has been strongly endorsed Trentside, local business leaders have warned it would not make financial sense to nationalise the Barlaston plant, stressing that serious private investment is needed.

The other interested parties are US private equity group Clarion Capital and members of the Wedgwood family, who want to see the group split so they can take over the ceramics end.