The government said on Friday evening that it “was considering temporary measures to avoid any immediate problems.” He said any action he would take would be “very strictly limited in time.” The road transport industry says the UK is short of tens of thousands of truckers, due to a perfect storm of factors including the coronavirus pandemic, an aging workforce and an exodus of foreign workers after the departure of Great Britain from the European Union.
Post-Brexit immigration rules mean EU citizens can no longer live and work visa-free in Britain, as they could when the UK was a member of the trade bloc. Trucking companies have urged the Conservative government to relax immigration rules so that drivers can be more easily recruited across Europe.
Britain’s agriculture and agri-food industries, which lack fruit pickers and meat packers, have made similar demands.
The government resisted, saying British workers should be trained for the jobs. He pointed out that Britain has no shortage of fuel, but that hasn’t stopped motorists lining up at gas stations to refuel just in case.
Sporadic supply chains in supermarkets and other stores that started several weeks ago have also been attributed to a lack of delivery drivers.
BP and Esso closed a handful of their stations in Britain this week because there weren’t enough truckers to get gasoline to pumps. EG Group, which operates around 400 service stations in the UK, said it was limiting purchases to 30 pounds (C $ 50).
In a statement, the government said Britain had “sufficient stocks of fuel”.
Shortage of a ‘Brexit hangover’
“But like countries around the world, we are suffering from a temporary shortage of COVID-related drivers needed to get supplies across the country,” he said, failing to recognize Brexit as a factor.
Confederation of British Industry chief Tony Danker said the driver shortage was in part “a Brexit hangover”.
“We have brought home several drivers that we would not have wanted to return home, and I think there is this more important issue of the immigration system, and it is complicated,” he told the BBC.
Danker said easing visa rules would be “a huge relief.”
“It’s a shame the government needed lines at the pumps to move, but I hope I hope and it will help,” he said.