Christmas in the U.K. could be ruined if Boris Johnson and his government fail to adequately deal with the looming crisis caused by fuel shortages.
As Britain heads into winter, the fuel crisis caused by a shortage of truck drivers is threatening to disrupt the supply chains and the queues at fuel station could be followed by empty shelves in grocery stores and supermarkets.
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 yesterday (Sunday) to discuss options – including Operation Escalin.
Late on last night, Kwasi Kwarteng also announced that fuel firms would be temporarily excluded from the Competition Act for the purposes of sharing information and optimising supply. He admitted there had been “some issues with supply chains”, but insisted there was still “plenty of fuel at refineries and terminals”. Officials said the move would make it easier for firms to “share information, so that they can more easily prioritise the delivery of fuel to the parts of the country and strategic locations that are most in need”.
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.
It has been reported that fuel shortages will have major knock-on effects that ministers feel need urgent remedying, with teachers and doctors unable to fill up their tank to drive to school or hospital. The blunt communications strategy of insisting there is no lack of fuel is likely to be shifted to urging people to be mindful of others when buying petrol.
Attention is also turning to Christmas. Kate Martin of the Traditional Farm-fresh Turkey Association (TFTA) said the UK could face a “national shortage” of turkeys in the run-up to December.
The TFTA, which represents producers of high-end free-range turkeys, said it was “100% caused by a labour shortage” due to post-Brexit immigration rules, meaning “a whole host” of the workforce is “no longer available for us to use on a seasonal basis”.
The British Retail Consortium also said moves to relax immigration rules to fix supply chain issues was “too little, too late” for Christmas.
Andrew Opie, the group’s director of food and sustainability policy, predicted to the BBC that during the festive season, shoppers would see “less choice, less availability, possibly shorter shelf life as well, which is really disappointing because this could have been averted”.
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