The group that fitted more Poly Implant Prothese breast implants than any UK cosmetic surgery clinic is refusing to pay for replacing them, arguing the cost would put them out of business.

The Harley Medical Group is just one of many private clinics facing what amounts to a global recall after the French implant manufacturer was found to be using a cheaper unapproved industrial-grade silicone that’s prone to rupturing.

"We're only sitting here today because the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, their own regulatory authority, has approved these implants and obviously hasn't done their proper checking,” HMG chairman Mel Braham told BBC News.

Roughly 300,000 PIP implants were sold worldwide before the company folded in 2010. Founder and chief executive Jean-Claude Mas admitted the gel used wasn’t standard but saved the company money in production.

The French government has since advised 30,000 women to have PIP implants removed, and an estimated 40,000 women in the UK have been fitted for the implants.

The UK is offering to remove and replace the implants for women who received them through the state-funded National Health Service, and is suggesting private clinics have a “moral duty” to do the same.

French authorities have offered to pay for implants to be removed, and Germany's Federal Office for Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices advised women to have them taken out.