Christopher Benítez Cuartas
Britain faces historic shortages in fuel and consumer goods due to a lack of truck drivers. Industry groups cite Brexit as the main cause for the disruption, as many EU nationals who worked as truck drivers left the state in response to the motion of departure, reports The Washington Post. The United Kingdom announced plans to give temporary work visas to 10,000 freight drivers and poultry workers to alleviate shortages, yet industry officials and experts forecast that the motion will not provide the sought-after relief.
While the shortages have affected Britain proper, Northern Ireland has been seemingly unaffected, with Seamus Leheny of Logistics UK telling BBC News “There simply isn’t a problem here. There is enough fuel and drivers here to keep the supply chain fully stocked.” In the UK, however, the fuel shortage has impacted more than just truck drivers, with long lines forming at gas stations for all citizens. Twelve percent of BP’s 1200 stations in Britain have run dry, The Washington Post adds.
The Petrol Retailers Association, a trade group, told BBC News that nearly two-thirds of its member stations have no fuel left, with the rest nearing emptiness. The Associated Press reports that PRA chair Brian Madderson told BBC News that “There is plenty of fuel in this country, but it is in the wrong place for the motorists. It is still in the terminals and the refineries.”
In response to the crisis, the UK government website announced the visa measure to help alleviate the shortage. Many citizens see this as a departure from the party’s previous restrictive approach to immigration, as outlined in the Conservative and Unionist Parties’ 2019 Manifesto.
The motion received criticism from the private industry as well. The Confederation of British Industry took a jab at the government in a statement, saying that the limits of the government response have “surprised many.” The British retail consortium has also criticized the motions, calling them “too small” to alleviate the shortage in time for the holidays. The Road Hauling Association has also entered into a hostile relationship with government officials in the midst of the crisis. According to BBC News, the RHA has vehemently denied fear-mongering accusations raised by Transportation Minister Grant Shapps, only complicating the already complex situation.
Most attribute the shortages to be an unforeseen consequence of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, as shifting immigration policies caused many foreign truck drivers to leave the country, a claim outlined by the RHA itself in its Report on the Driver Shortage. In response to the severe lack of workers, military units are being called to help transport fuel from refineries, Reuters reports.
In regards to the expanded visa plan, the Ministry of Education will be in charge of training up to three thousand new drivers, according to a plan released by Transportation Minister Shapps in a tweet. Additionally, according to BBC News, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced the temporary suppression of the Competition Act of 1998, allowing companies to share information in order to facilitate cooperation to end the shortage.
The British government must hope that these measures will all achieve their desired outcomes, particularly as the holiday season approaches. Time will only tell if the expanded visas and deregulation measures pull the state out of its crisis.