You would think that there was some sort of natural disaster or that a war broke out at first glance. The classic signs of civil unrest were there. For days now, people have joined long lines at gas stations, fighting to avoid queues, threatening pump workers and accumulating gasoline in water bottles.

“In the afternoon, does anyone know if any garages have gasoline now?” Thank you, ”was a typical post on the“ Next Door ”neighborhood social platform over the weekend. It was a bit more dignified than some of the other patrons who took to chasing grand tankers in their oil hunt, waiting outside the refineries for tankers.

All over Britain people totally ignored government assurances that there was no shortage of gasoline and there was no need to panic and lined up in greater numbers.

Political commentators joked that it was a perfect UK crisis because it wasn’t that bad and involved a queue.

It all started at the end of last week, when the BP oil company announced to the public that it would have to “temporarily” close a handful of its service stations due to a shortage of truck drivers. Long lines began to pile up outside train stations across Britain over the weekend, amid fears that gasoline would run out. Urban areas were the hardest hit, while Northern Ireland was untouched.

At a south London garage, the official said customers attempted to skip the line just to abuse staff, so he was forced to pull a line of a dozen vehicles off the road to prevent them from driving. block traffic.

As of Monday, the government had deployed 200 military personnel to start driving trucks to get supply chains back on track. The government and retailers say there is enough fuel at UK refineries, but a shortage of drivers has slowed transport to some petrol stations.

It was still not clear if the situation had been properly resolved. The Petrol Retailers Association chairman said fuel shortages were worsening in parts of the country, particularly London and the south-east. However, he said there had been “marked improvement” in Scotland, northern England and parts of the Midlands.

However, reports that doctors, teachers and social workers could not make it to work sparked numerous calls for the prime minister to prioritize fuel for essential workers on Tuesday. A caregiver told me she got stranded after several failed attempts to refuel her car left her with an empty tank.

A friend told me it was “a storm in a teacup that also exposed serious problems”.

The main problem is that there are not enough drivers to supply gasoline. There is an estimated shortage of over 100,000 heavy truck drivers and gasoline is just the latest industry to be affected. The lack of drivers has caused problems for a whole range of industries, including grocery stores and fast food chains.

Tanker drivers need additional safety qualifications in addition to their HGV license to be able to transport gasoline and other chemicals. After the UK left the European Union with Brexit, European drivers returned to their home countries or moved elsewhere, as working in the UK involved additional border bureaucracy, costing them income . Then the pandemic hit and even more drivers returned home, only a few returned. On top of all this, older drivers have retired and due to COVID there is a huge delay in issuing permits.

The oil companies pointed out that there was a lot of fuel available. They say the shortage is caused by “temporary spikes in customer demand” or, as PRA President Brian Madderson put it, “outright panic buying.” The government claimed that media coverage had made the situation worse.

This is not the case, according to the opposition Labor Party. The shadow interior minister said the crisis “is linked to the total and utter incompetence of the government. It has to do with the government’s handling of Brexit and the government’s failure to plan in recent months. The blame lies entirely with them, it does not belong to anyone else. “

“This fuel crisis is the direct result of the decision to leave the EU as Boris Johnson did. There is no queue for gasoline in France, Germany or Spain at the moment… The truth is that we are out of the customs union and these drivers are now subject to tariffs and, surprise, surprise, they don’t come here because they don’t get paid that much.

There was a hint of jubilation in mainland Europe. The leader of the German Social Democrats, who won the country’s elections on Sunday, made the link between Brexit and labor shortages, stressing: “The free movement of workers is part of the European Union , and we worked very hard to convince the British not to quit the union. Now they have decided differently, and hopefully they will deal with the issues that come with it. “

The UK government is now planning to offer temporary three-month visas to 5,000 EU truck drivers to increase the flow of deliveries. This will not work, according to representatives of drivers in Europe. Edwin Atema of the Federation of Dutch Trade Unions told BBC Radio 4: “The EU workers we are talking to will not be going to the UK on a short term visa to help the UK out of the shit they created for themselves… Drivers all over Europe have completely lost faith in this industry. Long before the coronavirus and Brexit, this industry was already sick, in the grip of exploitation …

In Romania, the Secretary General of the National Union of Road Transporters said:

“The UK seems to be going through a paradox. British citizens do not want to work as a truck driver, while at the same time they do not want other non-UK citizens to come and do this work.

The story is far from over, with some experts and retailers warning that shortages could impact Christmas supplies. A political cartoon summed up the mood in the UK nicely with one person saying: ‘This is not the Brexit I voted for! The other responds: “Funny, because this is the Brexit I voted against.”


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