“Operation Escalin” is the name that has been given to the plan for hundreds of British soldiers to get behind the wheel of the tanker trucks that transported fuel, with the aim of alleviating the shortage that the country currently suffers, not exactly for lack of the precious liquid, but because there are no drivers to take it to the service stations and because the panic that spread among the population since the end of last week caused thousands of people not only to refuel, after queuing for hours, but also Cans of gasoline will be taken home, an image reminiscent of the compulsive purchase of toilet paper in the early days of the pandemic. Precisely, this Monday the prime minister Boris Johnson and his cabinet are discussing the feasibility of this plan, after data indicated that stocks are about below 20% at gas stations, enough for just a couple of days. According to some reports in the local press, between 1,500 and 2,000 service stations have already run out of at least one type of fuel.
To the idea of putting soldiers to drive trucks are added other measures to tackle the problem, such as the relaxation of competition laws, as explained by the British Minister of Commerce, Kwasi Kwarteng, who noted that “while there has always been, and still is, a lot of fuel in refineries, we are aware that there have been some problems with supply chains.” The problem is not new. Precisely, the chicken shortage forced the fast food chain Nando’s to close fifty restaurants a few weeks ago, while McDonald’s had to stop selling smoothies and other drinks due to the lack of availability of some products. Now, it is the turn of another sector. “We have long-established contingency plans to work with the industry so that fuel supply can be maintained and deliveries can be made in the event of a serious disruption,” the minister promised. For his part, Grant Shapps, head of the Department of Transportation, blamed people who buy in a state of “panic” as the culprits of the crisis.
These measures come after the government agreed to offer up to 10,000 temporary visas for European truck drivers and food workers to save Christmas. This was reported by the Executive in a statement, according to which “5,000 drivers of heavy vehicles will be able to come to the United Kingdom for three months before Christmas, which will provide short-term relief for the transport industry. A further 5,500 visas for poultry workers will also be made available during the same short period, to avoid potential additional pressures on the food industry during this exceptional period. ‘ In addition, the government promised to increase the ability to screen new British drivers, a process that would have been slowed down by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, some voices have described these plans as “insufficient”. It is the case of Ruby McGregor-Smith, president of the British Chamber of Commerce, for whom this announcement is “the equivalent of throwing a thimble of water on a bonfire.” “This is a start, but we need the government to continue to collaborate with the industry and look for additional long-term solutions,” said Ian Wright, executive director of the Food and Beverage Federation.
The leader of the Labor Party, Keir Starmer, accused the Johnson government of “a complete lack of planning” for the labor shortage that has occurred as a result of Brexit, which was consummated on December 31 of last year. Speaking to a BBC program, he asserted that “we made the decision to leave the EU in 2016, so the government has had five years to bear the consequences,” he said, and noted: “And here we are, a Sunday morning with closed gas stations or massive queues, with supermarkets with empty shelves, with a total lack of planning and a prime minister who cannot make any decisions.