Thousands of Visas Given to Foreign Truckers Due to Driver Scarcity in the UK
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If the Coronavirus taught us anything, it’s how fragile supply lines are. When supply sources are degraded, it can cause unexpected shortages in completely different industries.
The good news is that when a shortage ends and production resumes, the scarce product can quickly enter the market. The same is not the case for our friends across the pond.
A new type of shortage, not caused by microchips, but rather by truck drivers, is causing serious problems for the British.
The passage of Brexit has caused a shortage of driving labor in the UK.
UK’s driver shortage
Things in Britain right now may look a little apocalyptic. There are long lines to gas stations and there is a legitimate fear that food may be running scarce soon. The cause of this panic stems from not enough truck drivers.
As the Teamsters say, “if you got it, a truck brought it.” But without truck drivers to pilot semis, gas trucks, or livestock trucks, it may be hard to get anything in the UK. Chief medical advisor, Chris Whitty, warned his fellow citizens that they will have to endure “a long winter,” as quoted by Financial Times.
Causes of the shortage
The knee-jerk reaction is to think that this was caused by COVID in some way. It was to a certain extent, but the big contributor was Brexit.
When the United Kingdom was in the EU, workers from other EU countries could easily move into Britain and fill these roles. People from Poland or Croatia could enter the UK to be truck drivers, without needing to fill out complicated visa applications.
As Brexit was finalized in January, the free movement of Europeans into the UK has ceased. For foreigners to work and live in the UK, they need to navigate through the complex immigration bureaucracy.
This was part of the intent of Brexit, to a certain extent. The idea was that by limiting cheap foreign labor, the British working class would expect a pay raise. Instead, the people of Britain are dealing with a gas shortage that may turn into an everything shortage.
Will the drivers of Europe respond?
In response to the crisis, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has issued the use of emergency visas to attract foreign truck drivers. In total, 5,000 visas are available to foreign truck drivers, as well as 5,500 visas for poultry workers, as reported by The New York Times.
This does come with a big catch. These visas are only scheduled to last for about 3 months. Call us crazy, but we would be surprised to see many truck drivers move to a new country if they were only allowed to stay there for three months.
Covid is also worsening the problem. While travel has mostly resumed in Europe, there is a dread that travel restrictions will return in the winter when the virus tends to do its worst.
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