The British government is considering scrambling hundreds of soldiers to deliver fuel to petrol stations running dry across the country due to panic buying and a shortage of drivers under an emergency plan expected to be considered by Boris Johnson on Monday.
The prime minister will gather senior members of the cabinet to scrutinise “Operation Escalin” after BP admitted that a third of its petrol stations had run out of the main two grades of fuel, while the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), which represents almost 5,500 independent outlets, said 50% to 90% of its members had reported running out. It predicted that the rest would soon follow.
The developments led to growing fears that the UK could be heading into a second “winter of discontent” and warnings that shelves could be emptier than usual in the run-up to Christmas.
In a bid to prevent the crisis from deepening further, ministers including the business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, transport secretary Grant Shapps and home secretary Priti Patel gathered for a midday meeting on Sunday to discuss options – including Operation Escalin.
Conceived years ago during the planning for a no-deal Brexit, it would mean hundreds of soldiers being drafted in to drive a reserve fleet of 80 tankers. It is understood that it would take up to three weeks to fully implement, because some of those mobilised may already be on other deployments and others could be reservists. Escalin was touted as an option last week, but government sources downplayed the chance of its activation.
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