UK visa restrictions to be eased to tackle driver shortage

The UK government has presented plans for a temporary UK visa program that will allow foreign truck drivers to enter Britain. The move comes amid a chronic driver shortage, which has caused fuel and food shortages in the UK. Across Britain, people are panicking over buying gasoline, with Downing Street furious at what he has described as “scare-mongering”.

It is understood that any change to UK immigration rules would only be for a limited time and there would be a cap on the number of foreign drivers allowed to enter. More than 10,000 temporary British visas are expected to be issued under these plans.

Driver shortages have sparked widespread disruption in fuel and food deliveries across Britain, with scenes reminiscent of the first weeks of the coronavirus pandemic as people panic. Some gas stations have been forced to close due to shortages, while elsewhere, lineups stretching for miles long have formed at gas stations up and down the country.

Shortage of 100,000 drivers

According to the Road Haulage Association, there is a shortage of around 100,000 heavy truck drivers. The industry body says Brexit has made existing shortages worse.

Meanwhile, the UK government and industry leaders have sought to reassure the public that there is no shortage of fuel and urge people not to panic to buy. The government also said it was “not planned to use military personnel” as a short-term driver, contrary to recent reports.

However, the shortage of carriers remains a threat to the delivery of gasoline, food and other supplies, forcing the government to turn around and give in to demands to ease visa restrictions in the UK for them. foreign truckers.

A BBC report says the government plans to announce a series of longer-term measures in the near future, including training more drivers and reducing the delay in heavy-duty driving tests.

Strong demand

Amid ongoing driver shortages, several supermarket chains have reported “high demand” for fuel, forcing a small number of gas stations to close.

BP has been hit the hardest, closing 20 of its 1,200 service stations, while 50 to 100 of its sites are running out of at least one grade of fuel.

Meanwhile, Tesco has reported that a “small number” of its gas stations have been affected. The EG Group, which operates 341 service stations across the UK, said it was introducing a £ 30 spending limit on all types of fuel to avoid running out in the middle of “no demand. previous customers “.

A Stockport gas station said it sold 5,280 gallons (24,000 liters) of fuel on September 24, down from just 1,760 gallons (8,000 liters) a week earlier.

The AA said the current lines at gas stations are unlikely to last as the supply chain is not affected by persistent problems.

AA Chairman Edmund King told BBC Breakfast: “The good news is you can only really refuel once – you have to use the fuel, so that should be a short-term thing. . “

Government faces backlash

The decision to introduce temporary visas to the UK sparked a huge backlash against the government, mainly because the introduction of the UK post-Brexit immigration system effectively told UK businesses, “You can’t count on it anymore. cheap foreign labor, you need to focus on developing the workforce in this country, you need to train them and pay them better wages.

The relaxation of UK immigration rules for foreign drivers is seen by many to undermine the message, while others have said it will lead to other sectors facing staff shortages also demanding special treatment.

Government ministers recognize that the situation could get complicated very quickly, but they have had to act to avoid further political embarrassment.

Labor has already searched the government, claiming ‘we told you this would happen months ago’ and Boris Johnson knows his opponents are ready to say ‘we told you’.

Part of the solution

Meanwhile, the Road Haulage Association has said that while temporary UK visas for foreign drivers are a “good idea”, they are only “part of the solution”.

The industry body said the lure of driving between the EU and the UK is not as appealing as driving on the mainland, meaning that even with a temporary UK visa offered, many would choose to stay in the EU.

However, Allan Davison, managing director of Hoyer Petrolog UK – BP’s transport contractor – told the BBC that temporary visas were needed.

He said: “If this was a permanent request, I would understand the associated political and practical challenges, but it is not, it is a temporary request.”

A government spokesperson said: “We have sufficient stocks of fuel in this country and the public should be reassured that there is no shortage.”

“The government is considering temporary and time-limited measures to be introduced. We are moving towards a high-wage, highly skilled economy and companies will need to adapt by investing more in recruitment and training to ensure long-term resilience, ”the spokesperson added. can help you with sponsor licenses

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