The British government finally cracked: under pressure for several months because of the lack of manpower in the United Kingdom, it announced, Saturday, September 25, that it would grant 10,500 temporary work visas for last three months of the year. This recourse to foreign employees, a real turnaround, reflects the extent of the lack of arms across the Channel.

Shortages of milkshakes and fuels …

The symptoms, in recent weeks, have become more and more visible. The fast food giant McDonald’s has given up on distributing its milkshakes and bottled drinks. And Nando’s, a chain of South African origin, has closed about fifty of its restaurants since the middle of August for lack of supplies for its two basic ingredients: chickens and pili-pili sauce.

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Thursday, September 23, the multinationals BP and Exxon announced difficulties in the supply of fuel to certain gas stations and rationing measures… This fueled a slight wind of panic and the formation of long lines of motorists who had come to refuel. Transport Minister Grant Shapps accused the Road Haulage Association of being responsible for this start of chaos, having let it filter that he estimated the lack of truck drivers at 100,000.

Two causes: Brexit and pandemic

This profession would benefit from around half of the 10,500 provisional visas announced this weekend, which underlines how crucial the logistics professions are for the British economy, affected by Brexit on the one hand, the pandemic of the other.

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Economists are still struggling to determine the respective influences of these two factors, and even to calculate the number of employees who left after the separation from the European Union: probably several hundred thousand, to be weighed against the six million Europeans who have adopted settled status, giving them the right to remain living and working in the UK.

Disaffection for the profession

While successive lockdowns have undermined the training and issuance of permits to new drivers, the government hopes to make up for lost time by mobilizing its officials from the ministries of education and defense to take exams under constraints. lightened. He will also solicit, by mail, former drivers, to encourage them to return to work. This mobilization underlines that the roots of the problem are much older: carriers are struggling to retain their employees because of the arduous nature of the work and its low remuneration, which feed the deep disaffection, particularly of nationals, for the profession.

When the United Kingdom was part of the EU, the effects of the presence of foreign workers on British soil were debated. If unemployment remained low after the opening of the borders to Eastern Europe in 2004, their arrival may also have contributed to pulling wages down. Reason why the Minister of Transport called on employers to “Improve working conditions and wages to retain new drivers”.

The issuance of provisional visas is a turning point for the pro-Brexit government, which has never stopped insisting that it wanted the country to depend less on foreign labor. The president of the Chamber of Commerce estimated that the number of visas would be insufficient, as the dense period of the end of the year approaches, which generates a peak in commercial activities. In addition, other sectors such as health are also very much affected by the use of foreign employees.


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