By Luke Tinsley – Political Editor
Last week, Boris Johnson reminded us that he gets paid for what he does. This being the same time that many businesses, which are asking for help from the government over the lack of lorry drivers, heard that it was “up to them to work out the way ahead”. The government is unable to “step in and fix every bit of the supply chain”. Instead, the Prime Minister is betting that wage-influenced inflation will be necessary through the training of British workers to replace key labour issues. Thus, urging businesses to increase pay for workers to solve the supply chain crisis.
Even though he granted 5,000 temporary visas to European lorry drivers over two weeks ago, this has not been enough to assuage the pressure on supply-demand. However, the British Road Haulage Association reports a shortage of 100,000 drivers leaving due to Brexit or the Pandemic. The mass shortage indicates that these workers are not adequately replaced, so 5000 temporary foreign worker visas are paltry to the 100,000 required. Therefore, if Boris is betting upon business to sort out the supply crisis, why is he gambling the British economy for the government not to intervene?
Firstly, the stakes are getting higher thanks to shortages occurring all around the UK. Continuing with the turkey crisis, Kate Martin of the Traditional Farm Fresh Turkey Association said that supermarket shelves would be affected by the shortages due to European labour no longer being available. A further indicator of the pressing timescale as the labour crisis is continuing.
Secondly, if Boris decides to continue an apathetic leadership style, the UK population may find there will be no heating for Christmas. Energy prices have increased by five times since last year. The UK could run out of gas, according to Sir Jim Ratcliffe, a gas and oil refineries boss, commenting on the latest of two energy suppliers collapsing. At least, in that case, we won’t have to worry about the turkey crisis; we won’t have gas to cook them.
Additionally, Nestle last week reported the potential possibility that they might not have enough supply due to the worker shortage. In terms of deficits, some may seem minor, but they all contribute to our way of living. That is what is being bet by Boris on the wants and needs of the British people. These shortages remind us of Boris’ bet of forcing businesses to hire British workers to fill the labour shortage or face bankruptcy. If he is successful, he may claim the success of Brexit that it did bring in more British workers than ever before. Moreover, workers will have increased wages through wage inflation, another coup he could claim through the forced-choice to invest in workers or fail.
According to Boris, one final point to remember is this: “But in the end, this is a problem of global growth. The UK has got the fastest-growing economy in the G7. And that’s putting some pressure on some parts of the system.” While this is true, in 2020, the UK economy shrank a record 9.9%, the most extensive shrinkage in its history and the worst country hit in the G7. Still, it should not be used as a cloak over the very clear issue of mass labour shortage; if effective change doesn’t happen, the economy will worsen.