Rees-Mogg and Trade Sec blame Covid over Brexit for labour shortage

3 October 2021, 21:18

By Tim Dodd

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg and Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan told LBC the UK's labour shortage is due to "disruptions" caused by "Covid", rather than "Brexit" or "European labour movements".

It comes as Boris Johnson has said "Christmas will be considerably better" than last year but it is up to industries to fix the supply chain crisis.

Live from the Tory Party conference in Manchester, LBC's Camilla Tominey asked the Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg: "Obviously we've had a situation where 1.2 million workers have gone back home to EU countries, and we're now facing a real problem aren't we?"

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Mr Rees-Mogg replied: "The lorry driver shortage is nothing to do with European labour movements. 89% of lorry drivers are UK born and bred in 2021, exactly the same level as in 2016.

"The issue around shortages is disruption in the global supply chain which is affecting countries as far away as China, it is not something that is purely affecting the United Kingdom.

"What we're seeing at the moment is primarily the consequence of Covid-related disruptions.

"In a normal year 30,000 lorry drivers take their tests, but for an extended period no tests were available because obviously you're sitting with somebody in a small cab, that was a particularly high risk thing to be doing at the height of the pandemic. Those tests have now restarted... so those things will begin to normalise."

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Camilla also grilled Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan on the subject.

"Lots of people are saying that Brexit is responsible for potentially food shortages in the supermarkets come Christmas," she said.

Ms Trevelyan responded: "Some of the challenges we're seeing in supply chains have been caused, not by Brexit, but by the terrible disruptions that Covid brought where sectors closed down, people moved home and haven't been able to work, people on furlough.

"And it's not only in the UK, across the world countries are getting to grips with [it] as supply chains get back on track."

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The military will start delivering fuel to petrol stations on Monday as panic buying leads to forecourts getting cleared out amid a shortage of HGV drivers.

Just under 200 military tanker personnel - of which 100 are drivers - have finished their training and will deploy to restock the pumps.