Boris Johnson calls in foreign workers in desperate bid to save Christmas

15 October 2021, 09:22 | Updated: 15 October 2021, 09:33

Boris Johnson has called in foreign workers to sort out supply chain issues, which include a massive build-up of cargo in Felixstowe, right
Boris Johnson has called in foreign workers to sort out supply chain issues, which include a massive build-up of cargo in Felixstowe, right. Picture: Alamy

By James Morris

Boris Johnson is calling in foreign workers as part of a desperate bid to save Christmas amid ongoing supply chain shortages.

The shortages, driven partly by a lack of HGV drivers as a result of Brexit, have led to fears of empty shelves in supermarkets and a lack of Christmas presents.

It also comes just 10 days after Mr Johnson said the UK has "no alternative" but to break its reliance on workers from abroad.

The government today announced it is planning to increase deliveries across the country by changing companies' "cabotage" rights.

It is also trying to recruit hundreds of butchers as concerns grow more than 100,000 pigs will have to be destroyed due to a slaughter backlog.

Cabotage rules govern the transport of goods or passengers within one country by a transport operator from a different country. Currently hauliers from the EU can only make up to two trips between two places in the UK within one week.

The new measures, which are subject to a one-week consultation, would allow foreign operators to pick up and drop off goods an unlimited number of times over a two-week period before they return to their country of origin.

A shortage of HGV drivers has led to fears of empty supermarket shelves this Christmas
A shortage of HGV drivers has led to fears of empty supermarket shelves this Christmas. Picture: Alamy

Transport secretary Grant Shapps told LBC’s Nick Ferrari this morning that the changes should come in "before the end of the year".

Mr Shapps said: "It's yet another measure we're taking to try to ease the supply chain squeeze, which is very much a global thing."

Read more: Just dozens of foreign HGV drivers take up 5,000 visas but Shapps says that's good

A build-up of cargo in Felixstowe has led to shipping company Maersk opting to divert vessels away from the Suffolk port, though similar logjams have been seen elsewhere in the world, including in the US.

It was only Tuesday last week that prime minister Mr Johnson said "there is no alternative" but to pay UK workers more in order to beat supply chain issues.

Pig farmers protested outside the Conservative Party conference last week amid fears 150,000 pigs could be destroyed due to labour shortages
Pig farmers protested outside the Conservative Party conference last week amid fears 150,000 pigs could be destroyed due to labour shortages. Picture: Alamy

But another measure, announced last night, saw the government announce up to 800 additional temporary visas for foreign butchers.

It followed warnings up to 150,000 pigs could be destroyed as waste as the labour shortage in meat processing has led to a backlog of animals ready for slaughter.