Boris Johnson promises change as UK faces food and fuel shortages

Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits the Network Rail Queens Road complex on October 4, 2021 in Manchester, England.

WPA Pool | Getty Images News | fake images

LONDON – UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson promises changes in the direction in which the UK economy is heading, outlining plans on Wednesday for the country to become a “high-wage, high-skilled and highly-rated economy. productivity”.

Because he will address his Conservative Party’s annual conference later Wednesday, Johnson is expected to tell delegates that the government is “grappling with the biggest underlying issues in our economy and society” and is ready to tackle. ” problems that no government has had the guts to solve. tackle before. “

The speech comes at a difficult time for Johnson, with the UK suffering fuel supply shortages in recent weeks and amid warnings that food supplies could be affected in the run-up to Christmas.

The shortage is mainly due to a lack of HGV drivers and workers abroad, and the shortage is greatly exacerbated by the Covid pandemic and Brexit, but also due to other factors such as low wages and working conditions.

Britain has experienced fuel shortages at filling stations due to a shortage of specialized tanker drivers, while farmers warn that tons of food products could go to waste and thousands of animals could have to be destroyed because there are not enough farm workers. or slaughterhouses. to process the meat.

The labor shortage has highlighted how dependent Britain has been on seasonal workers abroad.

Read more: Britain deploys its army to deliver fuel as panic buying and shortages continue

For his part, Johnson, a politician often accused by his critics of loving a piece of sound but lacking an eye for detail and planning, has been accused of failing to recognize the gravity of the situation.

When asked by BBC journalist Andrew Marr on Sunday about the problems facing pig farmers, who say more than 100,000 pigs may imminently have to be euthanized with the meat discarded due to worker shortages, Johnson said : “I hate to tell you. But I’m afraid our food processing industry involves the slaughter of a lot of animals. I think your viewers should understand that.”

He added that “the great pig hecatomb that you describe has not yet occurred, let’s see what happens.”

British workers

The prime minister and government officials have tried to downplay the UK labor shortage, insisting that supply chains are under pressure around the world after Covid. They have also insisted that the labor shortage can be remedied, for example by offering short-term visas to truck drivers.

However, he has resisted calls for more immigration to reduce labor shortages, instead telling companies to invest in British workers.

For their part, many British companies have said that they find it difficult to attract British workers, particularly in certain sectors where they lack the right skills, demand higher wages and are unwilling to accept tougher working conditions, on farms or slaughterhouses, for example.

Johnson, whose tenure in office has been largely dominated by the pandemic, is keen to shift the government’s approach to the country’s economy, particularly as changes caused by Brexit and the UK’s relationship with the EU are beginning to come to the fore, particularly the shortage of foreign workers.

The government seems determined to go ahead with plans to retrain British workers, and Johnson is due to say Wednesday that “we will not go back to the same old broken model of low wages, low growth, low skills and low productivity.” all this enabled and assisted by uncontrolled immigration ”, according to pre-released comments from the party.

“The answer is to control immigration, to allow talented people to come to this country, but not to use immigration as an excuse for not investing in people, skills and the equipment or machinery they need to do their jobs,” he said. I mean.

One of the emerging ironies of Brexit (whose supporters said leaving the EU would reduce Britain’s economic dependence on the region’s workforce and output) is that labor shortages could lead to more food imports from the EU, say industry leaders. Some now warn that supply chain disruptions and labor issues could lead to food shortages at Christmas.

Nick Allen, executive director of the British Association of Meat Processors, told Sky News that the turkeys will likely have to come from Europe during the festive period and that some much-loved foods, such as “pigs in blankets” (small sausages wrapped in bacon) may not be available.

“I suspect food can be imported and the turkeys are probably not British turkeys, but they may end up being French, or even turkeys from further afield. We’re not saying there will be a desperate shortage, but there certainly won’t be the options available for British food. , that is sure “, he said Monday.

Johnson’s speech at the conference comes amid criticism of the government’s tackling inequality in the UK, with his speech taking place on the same day the government ends a £ 20 ($ 27) to the payment of benefits of the Universal Credit, introduced during the pandemic. that many helped the most affected families to make ends meet.

While there is no indication that Johnson will address criticism of the benefit cut, his speech is intended to come up with more proposals to unite and “level” the UK, a land traditionally divided between north and south, with London as the epicenter. of the country’s wealth.

“There is no reason why people in one part of the country should be geographically destined to be poorer than others,” Johnson is expected to say.



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