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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

The gas shortage in the United Kingdom is also a Brexit crisis

It’s hard to imagine anything more likely to cause jaws to clench in Downing Street than the presumed victor of an inconclusive German election saying that Brexit is the reason why Britons are queuing up at petrol stations like they are back in 1974.

On the other hand, Social Democratic Party leader Olaf Scholz told reporters on Monday that the freedom of movement guaranteed by the European Union would have alleviated the shortage of truck drivers in Britain, which is preventing oil companies from supplying gas stations across the country.

For the average person, Mr. Scholz’s criticism may also seem to be old news at this point. Brexit is no longer being debated in the United Kingdom. Almost everyone is tired by the situation, and the nation, like the rest of the globe, has been devoured by the epidemic instead.

However, the coronavirus, as well as the months-long economic shutdown that it caused, served to obscure the ways in which Brexit has affected business. In the middle of last weekend, gas stations throughout the nation started to run out of fuel, causing fear among motorists and resulting in long queues of cars waiting to fill up.

However, although it would be incorrect to attribute a crisis with global implications exclusively on Brexit, there are some Brexit-specific factors that cannot be denied: There are approximately 20,000 non-British truck drivers among the estimated 100,000 shortfall in the country’s truck drivers.

Foreign drivers were given 5,000 three-month visas by Prime Minister Boris Johnson last weekend in an attempt to refill the ranks (while also placing military drivers on standby to drive gasoline tankers, a measure that has not yet been implemented).

The interruptions in supplies, according to Mr. Johnson, may continue until Christmas, but the most severe difficulties at gas stations started to subside on Tuesday. Once the anxious consumers have finished filling their tanks, the administration hopes that regular buying patterns will be restored to the economy.

This is not the first time that the United Kingdom has experienced a trade interruption since it left the European Union in 2020. New health rules in the European Union have resulted in shellfish farmers in the United Kingdom losing whole markets in the EU. Consumers in the United Kingdom have been surprised by high customs charges on imports of premium coffee from Italy.

The incident represents, however, the first major setback since life resumed its pre-pandemic level of normality following 18 months of pandemic-induced constraints. Schools are open, employees are travelling to their places of employment, and sports stadiums are crowded on weekends. In that sense, it is the first problem to emerge after Brexit that has not been obscured by the impacts of the coronavirus.

It is also restricted to a certain geographical area. Gas stations in Northern Ireland, which shares an open border with the Irish Republic (which is also a member of the European Union), are not reporting a spike in panic purchasing. In a similar vein, Northern Ireland was unaffected by the recent scarcity of carbon dioxide supply since its soda bottling facilities had access to imports from mainland Europe.

Despite this, Brexit has received surprisingly little attention in the public debate. Part of this is due to a hangover from the epidemic. The fact that other nations, from Germany to the United States, are also struggling with supply-chain disruptions, labour shortages, and increasing oil and gas costs is part of the reason for the slowdown.

However, it also underscores the stalemate that has developed in the discussion over Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. The 2016 Brexit vote has been the subject of four and a half years of bitter debate, and even Brexit’s most passionate opponents have shown little desire to revisit the issue. And the Brexiteers are always on the lookout for new people to blame for bad news.

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