UK offers thousands of visas to overseas truckers to address driver shortage


It was far from clear on Sunday whether the new visa measures would solve a crisis that some say echoed the chaos that hit the country in 2000, when a protest against fuel rocked the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair .

“This will be part of a learning process that the UK must follow,” said David Henig, a London expert on UK trade policy for the European Center for International Political Economy, a research institute. He noted that when Britain operated under EU economic rules, workers could move freely between countries in the bloc.

“We had a high throughput labor economy and are moving to a static economy,” said Mr. Henig. He added that buying panic fuel was not irrational, especially after it became apparent that some gas stations were running dry. Britons have been experiencing periodic shortages of goods on supermarket shelves for months, he noted.

Countless industries in Britain have recently complained about delivery delays, with shortages of McDonald’s milkshakes and roast chicken at Nando’s restaurants making headlines.

“Everyone knew there had been shortages for quite some time,” Mr. Henig said, “so it wasn’t like it came out of nowhere.”

Many countries in Europe face a shortage of drivers, so unless UK companies offer significantly higher wages, it’s unclear how many workers will take advantage of three-month visas. “You can make it worth it, but it won’t be cheap and it won’t be easy,” Henig said, adding that getting a visa involved a lot of paperwork.

Although business groups generally welcomed the government’s decision, some expressed doubts about its sufficiency. The government overthrow also comes after Britain’s transport and logistics industries pleaded with lawmakers to ease visa restrictions for European Union drivers. Logistics UK, a trade group, had applied for 10,000 seasonal visas for drivers, similar to a program for agricultural workers.


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