Prime Minister Boris Johnson tries to lead the UK

Not to be cynical or morbid, but in some ways the COVID crisis is perhaps the best thing that could have happened to the current UK government. It makes the perfect excuse for denial and blame-shifting on all the negative consequences of Brexit.

(And to be fair, it has also doubtless seriously exacerbated all the negative consequences of Brexit. But COVID is getting blamed for lots of stuff that Brexit would have caused to some extent anyway.)

Up to a point, at least as regards the lorry driver shortage. But the problem over the Northern Ireland protocol can’t be blamed on Covid, nor a number of other disappointed sectional interests that can at least make a lot of noise. Whether that’s enough to rattle his backbenchers is another matter. His handling of Covid-related issues hasn’t always pleased them, anyway.

One advantage Covid is giving is that it permits the continued delay of actual Brexit, to wit:

A big part of the whole Brexit business is the introduction of customs and standards checks on imports from the EU. We haven’t actually started this properly, and we won’t till (at the time of writing) July 2022. Because of Covid, you understand, and not because we are absolutely not ready for either a) the implementation or b) the effects of instigating these checks on our trade.

And of course the fact that this announcement emerges just as Frost plays the “Don’t make me angry” card over the Northern Ireland protocol is sheer coincidence.

Absolutely appalling.

All the official and informed comments I have seen say that Brexit is partly the problem. They also point out that Poland for example also has a serious shortage of drivers, as does the USA.

The reversing exercise in the test was always derided as useless. Any aspirant would have done that dozens of times while learning and it bore little relationship to the problems of backing onto a bay. Coupling and uncoupling is a relatively recent addition and is really just a simple routine. The intention seems to be that the large fleets will want to do their own testing.

As an experienced HGV driver, I was often asked to go out with a newly qualified driver to “show them the ropes”. The essence was that even though they were competent to drive on the road, they were totally clueless when it came to a lot of the things like load security that drivers are legally responsible for.

Weirdly, it’s a relief to hear that this will pose less of a safety concern than it appeared, so thank you.

In a sense yes, but also in a sense no.

There is a global shortage of drivers. The spin this as the “global shortage of drivers” rather than Brexit, it’s the current governments strategy is divert and blame.

There isn’t SUCH a shortage of drivers anywhere else, The EU isn’t reporting shortages in the supermarkets, but we’re about three months into this now, and it’s getting very visible.

It isn’t everywhere. It isn’t every supermarket in an area. It isn’t every day. It isn’t every product. Some things like high bulk, low cost, long life products have disappeared from the shelves. Bottled water, and supermarket own-brand fizzy drinks disappeared about June around my way. Things come and go otherwise. We had no lettuce/mushrooms/carrots other week there. Nothing. They actually had brown lettuce on one shelf, I suspect with busted bags which had made them go off for the desperate. A few weeks ago there was no raw chicken. None. Wine racks go from partly filled on the cheap end, to one or two left. It hits cheaper products more, higher demand.

I’ve witnessed what could be beer supply problems in a number of pubs in various places. Pubs normally with large selections have only one.

Reports are also that blood sample tubes are in short supply, so instructions for NHS doctors to not do unnecessary ones (speculative low allergy for instance).

On the Brexit side, the shelf life of a typical fresh fruit/raw meat pretty much dropped by half around April this year, as the Brexit backlog was hoovered up. Not lorries, but just a noticable effect.

Is it just Brexit? It is a lot. Is it covid? I don’t think so. That was the first diversion, the “pingdemic” where the crappy app barely anyone uses went crazy once restrictions were lifted, because we were having massive amounts of new cases (50K per day). That was a while ago.

I think a thing called IR35 made a difference. The government brought it in on scale in April (delayed since April 20). This makes self-employed people get blanketed assessed as employees and thus pay more tax, which potentially led to 100-200% rise of taxes paid. Making a shit job which paid well into a shit job which paid badly. So I think a lot left then (it’s had an effect on multiple industries, including construction and IT which hasn’t fully adjusted yet to the idea you either have to pay more, or adjust working practices).

I personally don’t think what the government is doing is going to solve a damn thing. They’re just not competent enough to assess it, preferring to deny reality, believe their own lies, and then blame everyone else and repeat. It’s what they’ve done on pretty much everything (our current Covid stats are underestimates, a disease which takes over 28 days to kill a bunch of people don’t count towards deaths, and new cases don’t count if you’ve had it before, the stats are a lot lot worse)…

For the first time since World War 2, there’s now a minister appointed to secure a food supply in the UK. So some admission of guilt seems to be there.

Any vaguely competent opposition would be tearing this lot apart at the moment, but they seem to fail. A campaign of something like “Remember Oranges?” would be memorable and get the point across, but this leader seems to be about as spineless as the last, though with more charisma and far less baggage.

So tldr:

There’s a global shortage of drivers
BUT Brexit has removed a chunk
Covid had some effect about two months ago
IR35 may have removed a chunk
There are definitely shortages across the board
This is going to be permanent

(missed the edit window)

Also, why is it Brexit? Well, the drivers were largely from what we might term Eastern European countries (though arguably the likes of Poland is central). Due to no social support network a lot went home during the pandemic. This stopped them being able to claim in effect right to stay when came back. They can’t get new jobs because the wages now don’t match the type of level allowing them to work here. Also, the general job has got crappier with new barriers and waits to cross into the likes of the EU for those going internationally. This might be reflected in lost wages. I believe there is also license validity reasons. To summarise, a country which doesn’t want them, with extra requirement on paperwork, with some unable to return, versus an economic area with far less hassle probably far better pay, and it’s a no brainer.

The real danger is when the UK is introducing checks (deferred for fourth time just this week) on incoming goods which it has to do to suit the WTO membership. Without it, the EU has a distinct advantage over other countries with no check. EU is fine with that, because it’s good for them. WTO countries don’t seem to be pushing for this to be done though (that may happen).

At the moment trucks come in with goods from the EU, and often return empty, to avoid the delay on checking the contents entering the EU which has been huge over the last six months, with reported days of delay due to paperwork. But it’s still worth it to run these. When the trucks get stuck on the way in, then the trucks will stop coming, and prices to do so will go up to get those who are fine to price including the incoming delays.

This is when the real shortages will happen. Some comes in in January (I think those were due in 2 weeks time), and rest in July (deferred from January).