In a gesture unprecedented in peacetime, the British government of Boris Johnson decided on Wednesday to send nearly 80 army tankers to the country’s roads in an attempt to tackle a fuel supply crisis that is hitting the country. hard on the UK for a few days. These shortages are the chaotic consequence of the new restrictions onimmigration related to Brexit, which the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified.
Managing this crisis is also difficult for Boris Johnson, one of the architects of this separation of the United Kingdom from the European Union (EU). The Prime Minister again found himself under heavy fire from the opposition, which accuses him of having improvised this divorce for which the British must now assume the collateral damage.
“A botched Brexit followed by a COVID-19 pandemic left a big hole,” Labor Party leader Keir Starmer said on Wednesday at his party’s annual congress in Brighton. If you get out and walk along the waterfront, it won’t be long before you come to a gas station that has no fuel. The government is learning that just doing Brexit is not enough. You also need to have a plan to make it work. “
On Wednesday, the BBC continued to broadcast images showing endless lines of cars waiting to access petrol pumps in several parts of the country, while the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), representing two-thirds of stations -country service, ensured that the lack of fuel was now only a reality for 27% of its members. She announced a gradual return to normal for the next few days.
The United Kingdom has faced a major shortage of truck drivers since leaving the European Union on January 31, 2020, a departure whose effects are now being felt on several supply chains, including the distribution of gasoline. There is a shortage of 100,000 drivers to ensure the movement of goods in the country. “The fifth of them were European Union nationals who decided to leave the country for lack of a visa needed to stay there,” supply chain specialist Jens Roehrich, professor at the University of Bath, joined by The duty in the west of the country.
In total, nearly a million European Union nationals have questioned their plans to settle in the United Kingdom in the aftermath of Brexit. The divorce, carried by a populist current, was motivated in large part by fear of foreigners and the threat posed by immigration to national identity and employment, according to its promoters. These departures had consequences for the health network, where many of these immigrants held jobs as a caregiver, nurse, technician, as well as in the world of agriculture or even in the transport sector.
“We warned the government early on that Brexit was going to be accompanied by a problematic exodus,” says Jens Roehrich, “and now we have proof. Sectors of the economy that were heavily dependent on immigration are affected. For example, weekly chicken production is down 10%, and turkey production for Christmas is reduced by 20%. According to several projections, Brexit and new government regulations are contributing to food price inflation. The consumer bill for food could climb by up to 10% over the next few years. “
The UK government was alerted last August by representatives of the transport industry, including Logistics UK and the British Retail Consortium (BRC), of a shortage of drivers, who are difficult to replace, and its negative effects on transport. product distribution. They also called on London to reverse its decision to no longer grant temporary work visas to nationals of EU countries.
Consumer bills for food could climb by up to 10% over the next few years
The move had the effect of “worsening a shortage” that was already there, said in an interview Simon Usherwood, professor of political science and specialist in the UK-EU relationship at the Open University of Milton Keynes, north of London. A shortage caused in part by significant retirements in the trucking industry and working conditions deemed too unattractive to constitute a new generation of British drivers. The pandemic has also exacerbated the understaffing in several key sectors of the economy.
“However, the end of the free movement of individuals between the United Kingdom and other EU countries has made it difficult for these drivers to return to the country,” he adds. Which might have been an option in the past. “
This week, faced with the crisis and especially the anger it has generated among motorists desperately looking for gasoline to get to work, Boris Johnson announced the training of more than a hundred soldiers to send them to trucking on the roads. Ironically, this measure was taken from a plan that London drew up several months ago in anticipation of a ” no deal “, Or an exit from the EU without an agreement with Brussels, reported The Guardian. However, the two capitals have indeed agreed on a negotiated divorce.
The Prime Minister also backtracked by announcing the urgent granting of 5,000 visas to truckers for a period of three months, in order to combat shortages.
It’s too little too late. And not convincing enough, judge Edwin Atema, representative of the Dutch truckers’ union, very present on British territory before Brexit. “In the short term, I think we are at an impasse,” he said on BBC Radio 4 on Monday. The needs are enormous. But I don’t think EU workers, the ones we’re talking to, are going to come to the UK on a temporary visa to help this country get out of the shit it’s got into, ”he said. he said with irony.
On September 16, a YouGov poll indicated that 47% of Britons regretted Brexit, against 40% who now believe that this divorce remains a good decision.