UK shoppers have been warned that the government’s plans to ease shortages is unlikely to work.
It comes as the government announced it would allow 5,000 lorry drivers and 5,500 poultry workers to come to the UK on short-term, temporary visas.
But James Withers, of Scotland Food & Drink, told The Independent that people should “plan ahead” about what could be frozen for the Christmas dinner.
‘We ran out of time’
He said: “Ultimately, now I think we have just run out of time.
“I don’t think there is anything that can be done now to get the Christmas trade where it should be.
“That’s despite warnings being sounded since the summer of the scale of the potential labour shortage we might face.”
Withers said the government has ignored calls from the food industry to prevent labour shortages caused by Brexit for at least a year.
And he said the government should not be “hostile to the very people we need to attract to this country”.
The British Retail Consortium and Young’s Transportation warned the number of HGV drivers allowed to work in the UK under the new visa scheme will not meet Christmas demands.
And immigration lawyers told the paper that applications are unlikely to be processed in time to help with the flow of supplies.
But there is also the issue of the visa fee, which would cost workers £244 – on top of the high costs of relocating to the UK.
A government spokesperson said: “This is a global problem and we have been working closely with industry for months to understand how we can boost recruitment.
“However we also want to see long-term solutions delivered by employers through improved testing and hiring, with better pay and working.”
But Grant Shapps admitted earlier this week that Brexit has been a “factor” in the UK’s fuel shortages – and Europeans have also denied they have experienced supply chains disruption.
Labour’s shadow chancellor David Lammy told Shapps that shortages of staff, skills and supplies happened “largely because of promises the Conservative Party made on Brexit, which have not been delivered”.
Meanwhile, the EU’s former chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said fuel shortages in the UK are a “direct consequence” of Brexit.
Olaf Scholz, who could replace Angela Merkel as Germany’s chancellor agreed, saying: “We worked very hard to convince the British not to leave the union. Now they decided different and I hope they will manage the problems coming from that.”
Mihai Cercel, an HGV company manager in Romania, told The London Economic: “I didn’t have any problems with fuel shortages. I also haven’t heard of anyone having these problems. We don’t have such problems in Romania.”
And doctor Alexandru Baicoianu, also in Romania, told TLE: “Fuel problems? There’s no such thing in Romania. In the past months, I have never felt like there is any kind of shortage of fuel anywhere in Romania. Neither have I felt that when I traveled to Bulgaria and Greece.”
Jorge Navalon, a software consultant in Spain, added: “There hasn’t been a single piece of news about shortages here, the only images we get are from the UK.
“Gas prices are more or less what they were before the shortages in the UK, but there are no queues of people trying to get gas like what you see in the news about the UK.”