The transport minister has come under fire after rejecting calls to change the post-Brexit immigration system to allow for EU lorry drivers to be hired in the light of food shortages.
Grant Shapps triggered strong reactions after addressing a letter to several Labour MPs in which he insisted the industry should use UK workforce.
After admitting the road freight sector faces “historic shortages” he said:
“I do not support using foreign labour to tackle a long-standing issue in the haulage industry.”
Shapps insisted leaving the European Union has provided the UK with the “opportunity to introduce a new immigration system while building a more resilient domestic workforce”.
In response, Labour’s Andrew Adonis said the transport secretary “would rather have HGV driver shortages, and thus food shortages in the shops, than allow more EU truck drivers.”
“Incredible Brexit blinkers,” Lord Adonis added.
One Twitter user said: “I call that xenophobic blinkers. Live by it, be destroyed by it.”
Another asked: “It costs money and takes time to train as an HGV drivers, are tories about to force the unemployed to drive lorries or something, and pick vegetables?”
And Rob Howland asked – since this was a “long-standing issue”, and “it was known it was being covered by ‘foreign’ labour” – ‘Why were the same unemployed people the government claims to encourage training of not trained over the past five years to cover for the shortages?’
“Rank incompetence,” Howland concluded.
I call that xenophobic blinkers. Live by it, be destroyed by it. Robespierre died on the guillotine. https://t.co/ThAitwrtgf— V. #IWearAMask #InLimbo #LesMaitresdelOrage (@InlimboV) August 11, 2021
If this is a long-standing issue, AND it was known it was being covered by “foreign” labour, why were these same people NOT using the past 5yrs to train & cover for it? Rank incompetence.— Rob Howland (@HowlandRob) August 11, 2021
(not ignoring the fact that their all or nothing, 0 to 100% on 1/1/21 made it impossible) https://t.co/kEJXY4SjYZ
it costs money and takes time to train as an HGV drivers,— MarcusFitzsimons Woke Bunny Hugger Green Socialist (@MarcusFitzsimon) August 11, 2021
are tories about to force the unemployed to drive lorries or something, and pick vegetables?
Read the two paragraphs Andrew has highlighted. https://t.co/D9JU7Z4jK5
Director job for the Brexit Opportunities Unit
Last month, Brexit minister David Frost was pitched by Labour’s Andrew Adonis for the job of director of Brexit Opportunities Unit.
Lord Adonis argued his role would involve giving Brits the opportunity to once again “travel, study, work, settle, live and form relationships across the whole of their continent and not be locked up in Boris Johnson’s Brexit Britain”.
It comes as Frost insisted the director’s pay, which will range between £93,000 and £120,000, is “appropriate for the calibre of candidate” required by the role.
Food shortages while EU workers are pushed to leave or prevented to come
Meanwhile, food shortages are persisting whilst EU workers are prevented from coming to work in the UK by post-Brexit rules or pushed to leave because of increased pressure.
Romanian lorry driver Viorel Onu told The London Economic earlier this month that he is thinking to go back to Romania and work across Europe, where he thinks the working conditions were ‘better’.
He said: “There is a difference between food prices in the UK six years ago when I worked here versus food prices now. Back then, I could live on £40 for a week, now I spend up to £120 per week so the costs are three times higher. Fuel prices have increased as well over the past nine months.”
Onu said being a lorry driver requires sacrifices and is not “necessarily a pleasure to do”.
He added there is now more risk, tiredness and pressure on lorry drivers delivering to UK supermarkets, because they are expected to cover for Brexit-related drivers shortages under even longer working hours approved by the government.