Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has admitted that Brexit has been a “factor” behind the fuel crisis, despite his earlier claims that the UK’s exit from the EU had helped the country adjust to the supply problems.
The cabinet minister insisted last week that cynics were “wrong” in blaming Brexit for the drastic truck driver shortage that led to gasoline shortages and the closure of concourse.
Shapps went on to argue Tuesday that the main cause of the fuel shortage had been the cancellation of heavy vehicle test drives (HGVs) last year due to the pandemic.
However, the transport secretary added: “I heard that Brexit is mentioned a lot, and it will certainly have been a factor.”
Speaking to broadcasters, Shapps said: “On the other hand, it has actually helped us change the rules so we can test more drivers more quickly. So it has actually worked both ways. “
Shapps also rejected criticism that the government has been too slow to mobilize the military to help deal with the fuel crisis.
Ministers have announced that they will put troops on hold to deliver supplies while service stations remain depleted. “There are a series of escalations that you go through in a crisis like this,” the Secretary of Transportation told the stations.
He added: “We have already implemented 18 different steps that extend into spring. The system was on the verge of dealing with it until last weekend and would have been able to continue to do so. “
Shapps condemned motorists who tried to fill plastic water bottles with gasoline. “It is dangerous and extremely useless,” he said. “Unfortunately, as we’ve seen with toilet paper rolls … once people start looking for a particular item, it can escalate quickly.”
Shapps also claimed that there were early signs that pressure on gas stations was beginning to ease. “Now there are the first very tentative signs of stabilization in the esplanade storage that will not yet be reflected in the queues,” he said.
Brian Madderson, president of the Gasoline Retailers Association (PRA), said that “sadly” people continued to panic about buying fuel.
But the PRA said only 37 percent of its gas station yards reported running out of fuel by Tuesday. “With regular refills, this percentage is likely to improve even more in the next 24 hours,” the association said.
The PRA had said Monday that members had reported that between 50% and 90% of the pumps were dry in some areas.
“There is still a bit of a panic in buying, there is still a queue, but we are hopeful that we will see the first signs of a move towards equilibrium later in the week,” Madderson told Sky News.
Meanwhile, Mike Granatt, former head of the civil contingency secretary, said it was time for Boris Johnson to stop “hiding” and make a clear announcement to discourage panic buying.
Ministers will hold another meeting on Tuesday to monitor the fuel crisis. The government has said Army tanker drivers are on standby, and defense sources say 75 drivers will be trained initially to drive fuel tanker trucks.
The government has also pledged to issue 5,000 temporary three-month visas to foreign drivers.
Shapps suggested last week that foreign workers had helped create “systemic” problems in transport, saying UK wages had been kept low by “the importation of cheap European labor, often from Eastern Europe.” .
Former EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said Britain’s fuel crisis is a “direct consequence” of Brexit and the decision to “end freedom of movement” for workers across the continent.
It followed similar comments from Olaf Scholz, the man who will replace Angela Merkel as chancellor of Germany. “We worked very hard to convince the British not to leave the union.
“Now they decided differently and I hope they handle the problems that come from that,” said the leader of the Social Democrats, referring to the shortage of drivers and freedom of movement.