The military will be deployed to deliver fuel to garages across the country from Monday amid continuing supply issues.
Nearly 200 military personnel have received training at transport sites to help alleviate the situation after more than a week of chaos at gas stations.
Pumps across the country started running dry last week due to a shortage of specialist heavy truck drivers to deliver the fuel.
The crisis has sparked a panic-buying frenzy with huge queues building up on forecourts across the country and fights break out in some places.
The government has publicly insisted the situation is stabilizing, but privately described it as an “effing nightmare,” according to reports.
The driver shortage has wreaked havoc on all UK supply chains, from food to fuel.
In a significant turnaround, a temporary visa regime for foreign heavy truck drivers that was due to expire on Christmas Eve will now be extended until the end of February.
Foreign drivers had ridiculed Boris Johnson over the three-month offer, saying they would not quit stable, well-paying jobs overseas to “pee a bottle on the M25”.
The government announced on Friday that 300 fuel drivers will be able to come to the UK from abroad “immediately” under a tailor-made program which will now be valid until March.
At the same time, 4,700 other visas for foreign food truck drivers will be extended beyond the three months initially announced and will last from the end of October to the end of February.
The ministers said demand for fuel has stabilized and there are now more deliveries than sales, but parts of the country still face challenges.
Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Over the weekend, more than 200 soldiers will have been mobilized as part of Operation Escalin.
“As the situation stabilizes, our armed forces are there to fill critical vacancies and help keep the country on the move by helping the industry deliver fuel to the forecourt.”
The temporary visa program was announced last week as panic buying hit gas stations across the UK as a shortage of truck drivers affected gasoline and diesel supplies.
In addition to foreign drivers, 5,500 poultry workers will also be allowed in to help stock supermarket shelves with turkeys before Christmas.
According to the Financial Times, millions of turkeys are expected to be imported from countries like France and Poland.
British Poultry Council chief executive Richard Griffiths told the newspaper the country’s major producers have cut consumption by about a fifth this year because Brexit cut their supply of cheap labor.
Ministers said foreign poultry workers will now be able to stay until December 31.
But he added that visas will not be a long-term solution and he wants employers to invest in Britain’s domestic workforce instead of relying on foreign labor.
He said he was also working with the industry to find long-term solutions to the estimated shortage of 100,000 heavy truck drivers and to encourage more people to enter logistics by improving wages and conditions.
The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) – representing independent gas stations – has warned that queues at forecourt will continue unless fuel supply increases, and said independents have been particularly affected .
Opposition parties have raised the prospect of a parliamentary recall to address the wider situation of labor shortages and supply chain disruptions if things do not improve.
Sir Keir Starmer said the temporary visa program would not be up and running “for weeks,” and said the Prime Minister should remind Parliament if necessary to rush to pass legislation to ensure the shelves remain stocked by Christmas.
SNP Westminster chief Ian Blackford said Boris Johnson “must immediately recall Parliament and convene multi-party talks to define measures to effectively tackle the Brexit crisis”.
He added: “Serious labor shortages, soaring costs, empty supermarket shelves, the current fuel crisis and trade barriers are all inflicting serious and lasting damage.”
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said, “Thanks to the tremendous efforts of the industry over the past week, we are seeing continued signs that the situation at the pumps is slowly improving. UK forecourt stock levels tend to increase, fuel deliveries to forecourt are above normal levels and fuel demand is stabilizing.
“It is important to stress that there is no national fuel shortage in the UK and people should continue to buy fuel as normal. The sooner we get back to our normal shopping habits, the sooner we can get back to normal. ‘
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