• The United Kingdom is in a fuel and food shortage, as the country lacks heavy good vehicle (HGV) drivers.
  • News and political commentators suggest various factors as to why there is this shortage in fuel and food.
  • The United Kingdom leaving the European Union (EU) is being suggested to be the leading cause of these shortages. 
  • But, some believe it is not as simple as this, with reports that the pandemic and the global labour shortage are playing a significant role in the scarcity.  

The facts  

Since last week, there have been mass queues outside petrol stations across the United Kingdom for several hours due to a shortage of HGV drivers.

This has caused petrol stations to have a lower than usual amount of petrol, and it is not the first time that the United Kingdom has experienced shortages of some kind.

In recent months, there has been less food on supermarket shelves, less beer in some pubs and even talk of fewer turkeys for Christmas this year.

In addition to the freedom of movement, the UK choosing to leave the single market – that means that the UK decided to rebuild, for the very first time, non-tariff barriers between the EU and the UK. It is a direct and mechanical consequence of Brexit.”

Michel Barnier commenting on the fuel and food shortages. Source: The Independent

Despite evidence that this shortage is happening because of the lack of HGV drivers, there is debate around why there is a lack of drivers in the first place. The EU’s former chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, says that petrol pumps running dry in the United Kingdom are a “direct consequence” of Brexit. Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves noted this past week that Brexit is “obviously a contributory factor” to the lack of HGV drivers.

The opposition led by Sir Keir Starmer has been critical of how the government is dealing with these shortages and has been vocal about this during their conference this week in Brighton. Despite agreement that Brexit is somewhat involved in the current shortages, not everyone thinks it is as simple as Brexit being the leading and only cause. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, suggests that the pandemic is why there is a lack of HGV drivers, with Maajid Nawaz, a radio host for LBC, also pointing this out.

Content warning: violent scenes. On Demand News reporting on fights breaking out in petrol stations due to the lack of fuel.

In response to these shortages, the army has been called in to help ease the pressure from petrol stations. According to The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the department will draw on reserve fleets of 80 tankers that the government keeps for emergencies. There are also offers of temporary visas to 5,000 foreign lorry drivers in the run-up to Christmas, and the process of receiving an HGV driver licence is being sped up. Yet, critics argue that the government has been too slow in calling the army in and feel that the temporary visas to foreign lorry drivers are “insufficient.”

With so much noise and perspectives around why we see such shortages in the United Kingdom, let’s turn to our journalists at Common Sense and see what they think of the current scenes.

Thank you, Brexit

How have we gotten to the position that people are now bringing water bottles to fill up petrol for their vehicles? It is a desperate situation to be in and to see across our news headlines, with commentators pointing towards the pandemic, a global labour shortage, and the Insulate Britain protests for the cause of these scenes. But, to ignore Brexit as the foundation of why we are seeing what we are witnessing is outright fraudulent, even if government ministers, corporate media and the Brexit brigade don’t want to admit this. France’s European Affairs Minister, Clément Beaune, is correct in saying that “the intellectual fraud that was Brexit” is being exposed.

The Brexiters went on about taking back control of our borders, the infamous £350 million that was going to the NHS and for Britain to become stronger. But what they forgot to mention is that when you leave an institution that you rely so heavily on for decades for the sake of British patriotism, you will receive consequences like what we are witnessing. It doesn’t take a person with a political degree to realise what a terrible decision leaving the EU has been, especially as there has been no plan in place to deal with the consequences of leaving this institution.  

And not to be all “I told you so”, but this was bound to happen, and thanks to Brexit, the United Kingdom lacks people in many sectors, has more paperwork to do, and is asking for help.

Where has the taking control part gone and was promised years ago?

But instead of bickering about our decision, we must deal with what is in front of us: these shortages.  

Let’s say thank you to those who voted for Brexit grudgingly and deal with this issue one way or another.

People are blaming Britain’s fuel crisis on a few different factors. One of the most notable voices is that of the EU’s former chief negotiator Michel Barnier who said Britain’s mounting fuel crisis which has seen pumps run dry is a “direct consequence” of Brexit

Mr Barnier, who is running for the French presidency, said the drastic shortage of lorry drivers and ongoing supply chain problems were down to the UK’s decision to quit the EU.

“Part of the answer is linked, effectively, to the consequences of the Brexit because the UK chose to end the freedom of movement [of people],” he said.

“And there is a clear link to the truck drivers,” Mr Barnier added.

“In addition to the freedom of movement, the UK choosing to leave the single market – that means that the UK decided to rebuild, for the very first time, non-tariff barriers between the EU and the UK. It is a direct and mechanical consequence of Brexit.”

Whilst it is naive to think the issue of a 400% increase in consumer demand for fuel over a weekend can solely be based on Brexit, it is also naive to argue that ‘freedom of movement’ which was a key pillar during our membership of the European Union wouldn’t cause problems when it was gone.

Some may reject the Brexit effect and instead point to chronic under investment in the Lorry driving industry over the years, the dire working conditions, the lack of attraction, the fact that drivers sometimes don’t see family for weeks.

Whilst these realities may have contributed to the crisis, its hard to ignore the fact that these factors have always been present however we didn’t have the crisis we have now. The only major change over the last three years is of course the B factor. The word Brexiteers are eager to forget and move away from. What has always been pattently clear is that as the fog of lockdown lifted, Britain would slowly begin to come to terms with what it really did at the Brexit ballot box. 

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Hamish Hallett is a journalist/broadcaster part of the scribe team at Common Sense. He has a deep interest in current affairs, both domestically and internationally, which you can see through his written work and his podcast called A Spoonful of News. Hamish loves to understand what makes people tick and get to the root of today's issues. Away from the network, Hamish has a profound interest in reading books, keeping active, travailing, meeting new and exciting people and controversially having ham and pineapple on pizza.

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Mike Omoniyi is the Founder and Editor In Chief of The Common Sense Network. He oversees and is responsible for the direction of the Network. Mike is an activist, singer/songwriter and keen athlete. With a degree in Politics Philosophy and Economics, MA in Political Science (Democracy and Elections) and an incoming PhD on a study of Cyber-Balkanisation, Mike is passionate about politics and the study of argumentation. He is also the Managing Director of a number of organisations including, Our God Given Mission, The BAM Project and The Apex Group.

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