Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has back tracked to admit that Brexit “no doubt will have been a factor,” in the ongoing fuel crisis.
Despite pushing back last week on accusations that Brexit was to blame for the current shortage of Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) drivers, Shapps admitted this morning in comments to the BBC that the UK’s exit from the EU may have contributed to the situation.
He continued to point to the cancellation of HGV driver tests last year, due to coronavirus and lockdowns as a driver for the petrol shortages felt across the country, but said: “Brexit I hear mentioned a lot, and it no doubt will have been a factor.”
“On the other hand,” he continued, “it has actually helped us to change rules to be able to test more drivers more quickly. So, it has actually worked in both ways.”
On Friday the minister reportedly said: “I have seen people point to Brexit as the culprit here when in fact they are wrong.”
Meanwhile Michiel Barnier, the EU’s former chief negotiator, said Britain’s fuel crisis was a “direct consequence” of Brexit while promoting his new book at a virtual event hosted at the London School of Economics, according to The Independent.
Last week Shapps suggested that foreign workers were a factor in creating “systemic” problems in haulage because British wages had been weighed down by “importing cheap European, often eastern European labour” according to reports.
Today he claimed there the situation was beginning to improve. “There are now the first very tentative signs of stabilisation in forecourt storage which won’t be reflected in the queues as yet,” Shapps said.
But the government this morning announced that military drivers have been put on standby in preparation to deliver fuel in order to ease the chaos at petrol stations, suggesting the crisis is far from over.