The center-left politician in pole position to replace Angela Merkel as German Chancellor has signaled the decision to end freedom of movement with Europe after Brexit as a reason for the British oil crisis.
Olaf Scholz, who is seeking to form a coalition government after the SPD emerged as the largest party in Germany’s federal elections, said he hoped Boris Johnson would be able to deal with the consequences of the UK’s departure from the EU.
“The free movement of labor is part of the European Unionand we worked very hard to convince the British not to leave the union, ”he said. “Now they decided differently, and I hope they handle the problems that arise from that, because I think it is a constantly important idea for all of us to get good relations between the EU and the UK, but this is a problem that needs to be solved.”
Several EU member states, including Germany, have long-standing HGV driver shortages. The worst affected countries are Poland (a shortage of 124,000 drivers), the United Kingdom (60,000-76,000) and Germany (45,000 to 60,000).
But unlike the UK, businesses in EU member states have been able to rely on the citizens of their neighbors to fill in the gaps, and the problems of empty supermarket shelves and panic shopping have been avoided. service stations.
A report by Transport Intelligence, a research firm specializing in the logistics industry, has described the UK as entering a ‘Bermuda triangle of Brexit, pandemics and tax reforms / peak seasons, leading to an urgent driver shortage in the UK ”.
In his comments Monday morning, Scholz echoed Johnson’s explanation of the driver shortage in some European countries.
He said: “Let me add that maybe it has to do with the salary issue … They want to know if it’s a very good thing for their whole life and if they understand that being a truck driver is something that a lot of people really like. be, and you can’t find enough [people]This has something to do with working conditions and you have to think about it ”.
The accumulation of problems in the UK in recent weeks, from empty supermarket shelves, gas shortages, lack of petrol in yards and shortages of CO2 required for services ranging from the operation of slaughterhouses to the production of soft drinks, has been considered in the European media as part of the consequences of Brexit.
Libération, a French newspaper, published a front page earlier in the week with an empty toilet paper roll with the words: “Brexit: the next dayIt isto sing”. (The mornings that did not comply).
According to Transport Intelligence, Brexit made it “legally impossible to recruit foreign heavy vehicle drivers,” while the Covid pandemic created a backlog of evidence and caused some 15,000 drivers from Eastern Europe to return home, many of whom did not return. .
Between 2010 and 2017, the number of EU citizens driving heavy vehicles in the UK increased from 10,000 to 45,000, and fell to 42,000 in early 2020. From March to June 2020, the number of vehicle drivers EU heavy goods fell by another 15,000 to 25,000, recovering only slightly to 28,000 by the end of the year.
The government had also introduced tax changes which, according to Transport Intelligence, had exacerbated the exodus from the UK by forcing all contractors with a turnover of £ 10 million or 50 employees to pay full taxes and national insurance to their drivers, starting at April 2021.
Michael Clover, Head of Business Development at Transport Intelligence, said: “It really is a perfect storm. We do not have the lever of other international drivers to enter like most of Europe, so the capacity can be shuffled, because we are no longer in the EU.
“Poland has long been a net exporter of drivers, but it can fill some of those gaps with drivers from Lithuania or Hungary or from Romania, Bulgaria and some other EU states.”