The UK will grant temporary visas in a bid to resolve supply chain issues, the government said on Saturday evening.
“5,000 heavy truck drivers will be able to come to the UK for 3 months in the run-up to Christmas, providing short-term relief to the transport industry,” he said in a statement. declaration.
“An additional 5,500 visas for poultry workers will also be available for the same short period, in order to avoid any further potential pressure on the food industry during this exceptional period,” he added.
Britain has faced a severe shortage of heavy truck drivers in recent months, with the industry blaming a combination of Brexit restrictions on labor mobility and a backlog of driving tests due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some business groups have already expressed their concerns about the inadequacy of the latest measures.
“Now action has been taken, but further testing will take time and the low number of visas on offer is insufficient,” Ruby McGregor-Smith, president of the British Chambers of Commerce, said in a statement. declaration.
“Even if these short-term opportunities attract the maximum number of people allowed under the program, it will not be enough to solve the scale of the problem that has now developed in our supply chains,” she said. said, adding: “This announcement is the equivalent of throwing a water die on a bonfire.
McGregor-Smith warned that, without further action, Britain faces “the very real prospect of serious damage to our economic recovery, stifled growth as well as another less than happy Christmas for many companies. and their customers across the country “.
Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, welcomed the government’s visa decision while warning that more action will be needed in the long term.
“It’s a start, but we need the government to continue to work with industry and look for additional long-term solutions,” he said.
UK authorities will also invest in courses with the aim of training up to 4,000 new drivers, while the Ministry of Defense will deploy staff to help build driver testing capacity. Letters will be sent to those already licensed to drive trucks, encouraging those who have left the industry to return.
Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labor Party, accused ministers of ‘complete lack of planning’ for labor shortages following the Brexit vote in 2016.
“We made the decision to leave the EU in 2016, so we had five years for the government to bear the consequences,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show. “And here we are on a Sunday morning with closed gas stations or massive queues, with supermarkets with empty shelves – a complete lack of planning and a Prime Minister who cannot make any decisions.”
Speaking on the same show, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps argued that Brexit allows ministers “the flexibility to set our own rules” and issue visas if necessary to deal with shortages.
“On the other side of Brexit, it actually gave me a lot of freedom to keep increasing the number of [driving] tests available, which is the real restriction here, ”he argued.
“These are changes I couldn’t have made if we were still in Europe, due to the way licensing was handled by European directives – so we got some of those extra freedoms,” Shapps said. .
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