Domestic Affairs

Boris Johnson ‘ready to give visas to 5,000 foreign truckers’

by Sputnik News

On Friday, British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps promised that the government would “move heaven and earth” to resolve a shortage of HGV drivers. The pledge came amid reports of empty shelves across many UK supermarkets and the closure of scores of petrol stations in the country.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to sign off on about 5,000 temporary visas for foreign HGV (heavy good vehicle) drivers to tackle a shortage of truckers that has already disrupted British food chains and petrol stations, the Financial Times (FT) cited unnamed sources as saying on Friday.

According to the insiders, the purported move is part of a package of measures that is expected to “last three to six months, to see us through Christmas”.

One source argued that Johnson was “completely fed up with bad headlines on this and wants it sorted and doesn’t care about visa limits any more”.

They added that “the PM indicated he would rather take the short-term hit on immigration as a trade off for not messing up Christmas”.

The package, due to be announced later on Saturday, will also reportedly include steps to reduce red tape for HGV drivers and measures to encourage those who had quit the industry to come back.
The FT report follows Transport Secretary Grant Shapps saying on Friday that he doesn’t rule out servicemen being brought in to drive trucks if the situation further worsens. In an interview with the BBC, he admitted that there had been a “systematic shortage of drivers” for a “long time”, and that many truckers had left the industry due to low wages, prompted in part by using labour from abroad.
Shapps also urged motorists “to carry on as normal”, an appeal that was ignored throughout Friday night, resulting in long jams at filling stations.
The developments came after the oil and gas giant BP shuttered many of its 1,200 UK petrol stations, and Esso – which is part of ExxonMobil – temporarily closed some of its garages because of a shortage of petrol and diesel.
The lack of lorry drivers has also badly damaged supply chains in Britain, with supermarkets running short of goods and restaurant chains, such as McDonald’s and Nando’s, being seriously affected.

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium (BRC), has, meanwhile, described HGV drivers as “the glue which hold our supply chains together”.

He claimed that the UK currently “faces a shortfall of around 90,000 HGV drivers and it is consumers who ultimately suffer the consequences”.
Opie added that without truck drivers, “we are unable to move goods from farms to warehouses to shops”, and that “unless a solution can be found in the next 10 days, it is inevitable that we will see significant disruption in the run up to Christmas”.
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