Reuters A BP petrol station that ran out of fuel can be seen in London, UK, on September 26, 2021. Reuters / Paul Childs
By Guy Falconbridge and Alistair Smoot
LONDON (Reuters) – As many as 90% of British fuel stations dried up in major English cities on Monday as supply chains tightened due to a shortage of trucks, prompting retailers to warn that the world’s fifth-largest economy could suffer.
After the Covid-1 pandemic epidemic, post-Brexit catastrophic shortages led to chaos in everything from food to fuel through the British supply chain, disrupting Christmas and increasing the risk of price rises.
Just days after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government spent millions of pounds to avoid food shortages due to the biggest cost of fertilizer production, ministers are urging people to refrain from buying in panic.
But on Sunday dozens of rows of vehicles were snatched from petrol stations across the country, swallowing supplies and forcing many gas stations to close. According to Reuters reporters, pumps across the British city were either closed or there were signs that fuel was unavailable.
The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), which represents independent fuel retailers, now accounts for 5% of all forecourts in the UK.
“We are unfortunately seeing panic in many parts of the country to buy fuel,” Gordon Balmer, executive director of PRA, which has worked for BP (NYSE 🙂 for 30 years, told Reuters.
“We need some peace,” Balmer said. “Please don’t panic buy: if people shut down the network it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Environment Secretary George Eustace said there was no shortage of fuel, urging people to stop buying panicked, and said the army had no plans to run trucks, although the defense ministry would assist in testing the trucks.
Hulier, gas stations and retailers warned that no immediate solution was found because the shortage of truck drivers – which could be estimated at 10,000 – was so severe, and because fuel transportation required additional training and licensing.
For months, supermarkets, processors and farmers have warned that a shortage of drivers for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) is pushing the supply chain to a break point – making it harder to find products on shelves.
In the face of a fierce winter warning ahead, some EU politicians have linked supply chain pressures to the 2016 Brexit referendum and Britain’s subsequent decision to seek a distant relationship with the bloc.
Social Democrat candidate Olaf Schulz said Angela Merkel’s success as German chancellor was due to the fact that “the free movement of labor is part of the European Union and we have tried hard not to persuade the British to leave the union.”
“They decided differently. I hope they manage the problems that come from there,” Schulz said.
British ministers insisted that Brexit had nothing to do with the current trucker shortage, although about 25,000 trucks had returned to Europe before Brexit. Britain also failed to test 1,000,000 drivers during the Covid-1 lockdown.
On Sunday, the government announced plans to issue temporary visas for 5,000 foreign truck drivers.
Edwin Atema, head of research and enforcement at the Netherlands-based FNV union, told the BBC that EU drivers were unlikely to come to Britain considering the proposed terms.
“The EU staff we are talking to will not go to the UK for short-term visas so they can help the UK out of the shit they make,” Atema said.