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Britain set to ease visa rules amid shortage of truck drivers

LONDON, Sept. 25 (Reuters) – Britain is expected to announce plans to issue temporary visas to truck drivers to alleviate a severe labor shortage that has led to fuel rationing at some gas stations and warnings from retailers of significant disruption in the run-up to Christmas.

As queues started forming outside gas stations early on Saturday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said it was considering temporary measures to address the shortage of heavy truck drivers.

Newspapers reported the government would allow up to 5,000 foreign drivers to enter Britain on short-term visas, a move logistics companies and retailers have been asking for months but the government had previously ruled out.

The UK’s Road Haulage Association (RHA) says Britain needs 100,000 more drivers to meet demand. The driver shortage was caused in part by Brexit and COVID-19, and the loss of around a year of training and driving tests.

“We are considering temporary measures to avoid any immediate problems, but any measures we introduce will be very strictly time bound,” a spokeswoman for Johnson’s office in Downing Street said in a statement.

Downing Street declined to give further details.

Ministers have warned against panic buying, and oil companies say there is no shortage of supplies, just problems delivering fuel to gas stations.

However, long lines of vehicles began to congregate at gas stations to refuel after BP (BP.L) said it had to close some of its outlets due to shortages of drivers.

Some Shell stations (RDSa.L) also reported that the pumps were running dry while ExxonMobil’s Esso (XOM.N) also said a small number of its 200 Tesco Alliance retail locations were also affected. in one way or another.

EG Group, which operates hundreds of forecourts across Britain, said on Friday it would impose a purchase limit of 30 pounds ($ 41) per customer for fuel due to “unprecedented customer demand. “.

“We have large stocks of fuel in this country and the public should be reassured that there is no shortage,” said the Downing Street spokeswoman.

“But like countries around the world, we are suffering from a temporary shortage of COVID-related drivers needed to move supplies across the country.”

The fuel problem comes as Britain, the world’s fifth-largest economy, is also grappling with soaring European natural gas prices, causing energy prices to soar and possibly tightening food supplies.

Other countries like the United States and Germany are also facing a shortage of truckers.

Britain says the long-term solution is to hire more British drivers, with the RHA saying better wages and conditions are needed to attract people into the industry.

But the retail sector has warned that unless the government acts to address the shortage within the next 10 days, significant disruption is inevitable as Christmas approaches. Read more

($ 1 = 0.7311 pounds)

Reporting by Michael Holden and Guy Faulconbridge Editing by Frances Kerry

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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