Boris Johnson relaxes rules for foreign truck drivers
Visa plans have emerged as The Telegraph can reveal that several major supermarkets have discussed writing to customers as early as next week warning them that there may be less choice on the shelves this Christmas.
According to a source, the talks were sparked by growing fears that grocery retailers might miss their targets for stocking so-called “ambient” or shelf products, like cranberry sauce, by the end of October.
This should have a big ripple effect for November, when the focus is on storing fresh produce such as Brussels sprouts and turkeys.
On Friday night, Downing Street denied claims by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro that Mr Johnson asked him for an “emergency” deal to alleviate shortages of an unspecified food item believed to be turkeys.
“Without action, there will most likely be a shortage of some fresh foods,” the source added. “And at some point, they have to tell their customers that. They don’t want to do that – because what customers will think is rather that you might not have germs, let’s get in the car. and refuel. “
The food supply chain at the breaking point
Restaurants and pubs are also facing significant disruption due to an “acute shortage of drivers”, with industry body UKHospitality revealing that members are reporting missing products in deliveries.
“The acute driver shortage affects all parts of the supply chain – fractures run from farm to fork and our members report on average that one in five items just don’t show up with every delivery. “said Kate Nicholls, the organization’s chief executive.
“Coupled with labor shortages in the sector, this indicates a food supply chain at the breaking point.”
Since May, industry executives have warned of the looming truck driver crisis – but Ms Patel and Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, have led opposition to calls to expand the list of ‘shortage occupations. Which makes it easier for Europeans to work in the UK under the post-Brexit immigration system.
They argued that British companies should instead improve wages and conditions to attract more British drivers.
It wasn’t until Friday morning that Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, said granting expedited visas to European heavy truck drivers risked undermining efforts to raise wages, in turn exacerbating shortages.
However, in recent days, George Eustice, the Secretary of the Environment, and Stephen Barclay, the Cabinet Minister, have flip-flopped, having faced warnings of empty shelves and panic shopping in December.
On Friday evening, a senior government source said: “We believe UK workers are being paid properly and we will not give in to big companies who want to change immigration rules to lower wages.”