Britain will issue up to 10,500 temporary work visas to lorry drivers and poultry workers to ease chronic staff shortages, the government announced Saturday, September 25 in a U-turn on post-Brexit immigration policy.
The short-term visas, to run from next month until late December, come as UK ministers grapple with a huge shortfall in drivers and some other key workers that have hit fuel supplies and additional industries.
A tanker drivers shortage has caused large queues at petrol stations in recent days, as people ignore government pleas not to panic-buy fuel after some garages closed due to the lack of deliveries.
The government confirmed that 5,000 fuel tanker and food lorry drivers will be eligible to work in the UK for three months, until Christmas Eve.
The scheme is also being extended to 5,500 poultry workers.
The transport secretary said he did not want to “undercut” British workers but could not stand by while queues formed.
But the UK Chambers of Commerce said the measures were the equivalent of “throwing a thimble of water on a bonfire”.
While the Road Haulage Association said the announcement “barely scratches the surface”, adding that only offering visas until Christmas Eve “will not be enough for companies or the drivers themselves to be attractive”.
Marc Fels, director of the HGV Recruitment Centre, said visas for lorry drivers were “too little” and “too late”.
However, the news was welcomed by freight industry group Logistics UK, which called the policy “a huge step forward in solving the disruption to supply chains”.