Food shortages in empty supermarkets during the Covid-19 pandemic and post-Brexit period have sounded the alarm in the UK. Many Britons are now worried about empty store shelves due to a shortage of lorry drivers. Boris Johnson has crucial decisions ahead of him.
Stock Levels at their Lowest in the British Retail Industry
British retailers are facing stock shortages due to a scarcity of lorry drivers, which has also led to a severe shortage of goods on supermarket shelves. Steve Murrells, Co-operative Group chief executive, has spoken of the worst shortages he has ever seen. He blamed “Brexit and issues caused by Covid for the recent disruption. He stressed that training for new drivers is on the agenda to address these shortcomings. Last year, 14,000 European drivers left the UK and only 600 returned. Food shortages have also manifested themselves in some fast food stores, with some drinks becoming scarce at McDonald’s and chicken at KFC.
A few days ago, 1,250 McDonald’s restaurants in the UK were forced to remove certain dishes from their menus due to bottlenecks in the delivery process. Also, the British are re-thinking the purchase of their Christmas gifts due to the problem of shipping goods from Asia. This is the worst supply chain shortages ever affecting retailers in the UK.
Worries About Shortages with Christmas Around the Corner
Last year, the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson cancelled all Christmas gatherings due to the spread of Covid-19 mutations in the country. This year, the managing director of the frozen food giant Iceland Foods, Richard Walker, has already warned British buyers that if supply chain issues continue until December, Christmas will be affected this year too, by saying: “We’ve got a lot of goods to transport between now and Christmas and a strong supply chain is vital for everyone”. Tesco’s chairman also warned of shortages in supermarkets at Christmas as he called on the government to change post-Brexit rules for lorry drivers. John Allan, who has overseen the country’s largest groceries and general merchandise retailer since 2015, said the government should change rules for lorry drivers to allow for more emergency workers from overseas to help solve the problem.
Shortages of 100,000 Drivers in the UK
The Road Haulage Association Ltd (RHA) in the UK has spoken of a shortage of around 100,000 lorry drivers. The union also noted the fact that many European transport workers left the country after Brexit. The UK government, meanwhile, has reduced the number of hours drivers can temporarily work to improve the situation. Expensive and complex visa procedures are now necessary, and new drivers are rarely willing to enter the job. In addition, thousands of drivers retire every month, and tens of thousands of driving tests have been cancelled due to the Covid-19 crisis.
Lorry Driving Loses Attractiveness Following Brexit
Working as a lorry driver is no longer attractive to non-Brits after Brexit was finalized. The consequences of holding this job have become increasingly difficult as borders with Europe have been closed and there are numerous bureaucratic obstacles. These problems are partly due to the post-Brexit laws that have made life and work for EU citizens in the UK difficult. In addition, many people have been forced to isolate themselves due to exposure to Covid-19.
Requests Made to Boris Johnson to Access the European Labour Market
Recently, representatives of the economic sector in the UK announced that the shortage of lorry drivers in the summer could lead to problems with the supply chain, leading to empty supermarket shelves in the country. Unite, the trade union protecting workers’ rights, equality and diversity in the workplace, is urging the government not to issue European lorry drivers with temporary UK visas to plug chronic HGV driver shortages. Instead, the union has urged the logistics industry to increase driver pay rates to solve the crisis, according to a MotorTransport report. In contrast, Richard Burnett, RHA chief executive, has sent several joint drafts from the affected industries to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The signatories of the petition, which also includes logistics companies as well as food industry associations, have called for Johnson to intervene to gain access to the European labour market using temporary work visas.
The government has been forced to make emergency decisions to address labour shortages and control the crisis in the food industry, exempting workers from forced self-quarantine. Under current laws, those who have coronavirus symptoms, or have been in contact with someone with a positive test, must be isolated for at least ten days. This has created many problems, especially for the food production and distribution industry.
The Prevalence of Covid-19 a Factor in Increasing Trade Barriers
The increase in trade barriers in the UK after Brexit and its escalation with the spread of the Covid-19 has disrupted the production and distribution of some essential goods. In addition to making food imports more difficult, Brexit has drastically reduced the workforce in the industry. Seasonal or permanent workers in this class generally came to work in the UK from European countries before Brexit to make up for the shortage.
Food producers believe that without the immediate help and intervention of the government, empty food shelves will soon be seen in stores. New British immigration laws now only allow for skilled workers to enter the country. This has been catastrophic for food producers who need seasonal and unskilled labour. Some British executives believe the government should reconsider the list of jobs the country needs.
After 47 years of membership in the EU, the UK finally left the EU officially in early 2021. The government says it has reached an agreement on the future of trade cooperation with the EU. But in practice, the departure has caused a range of problems, especially for the UK. British industry is now threatened by two types of shortages: a shortage of manpower and a shortage of goods. Both of these deficiencies are the result of leaving the EU, which is now exacerbated by the pandemic.