Why the newest Bond movie ‘No Time to Die’ is considered the least realistic of the series? Because it shows a Brit in a fully fuelled car… This is just one of a multitude of jokes typical for so British distancing and facing any problem. Problem absolutely real in this case, which cannot be explained only by the hysteria of buyers or the conspiracy of fuel suppliers. The United Kingdom has temporarily become not so much a market of shortages of goods – but a very hungry labour market.
Another anecdotal illustration of the current phenomenon is the meme in which Elizabeth II replies to Boris Johnson calling her, “Yes, I was a truck driver during the war, why do you ask?“. Already in the Summer, the transport industry warned that there was a shortage of at least 25,000 qualified HGV drivers. It was then that severe supply shortages in stores became noticeable – not because of the lack of goods, but of employees who could deliver them. Currently, these numbers have soared, there is already a shortage of 90,000, and at the conference of the opposition Labour Party its leader Keir Starmer mentioned about100,000 lacking drivers. But the point is not even in exact numbers – undisputable fact is than on petrol stations are long queues unseen here since the 1973 oil crisis. And try to imagine that dissonance while seeing signs “No petrol” especially in Aberdeen, the North Sea capital of BP and a whole British oil sector.
…but we beat the carbon footprint!
For a person raised like me in real socialism – such views bring back memories of childhood, miles long queues of archaic cars, waiting for hours for petrol deliveries. And just like now, at the beginning of the 1980s, the attention was drawn to single diesels (mostly the Beetles) passing serenely gloomy petrol car drivers and driving up with no obstacles to the black distributor refuelling how much can fit in the tank. As a sworn diesel user, I now for a moment felt the same satisfaction when my car, doomed to inevitable destruction in the next decade – may once again prove its advantage over grounded petrol competitors.
But in the present situation, does not sound suspiciously another joke that the UK has taken the lead in the fight against the carbon footprint because it promised to eliminate petrol and diesel engines by 2030, and yet most of them have not been running since last Wednesday?
These suspicious people raise a puzzling coincidence: here, after several months of lockdowns and travel restrictions, when, especially in the hardest months, British roads were almost completely empty – during the holiday season, the inhabitants of the Islands, effectively discouraged from traveling abroad, massively returned to domestic resorts, of course in own favourite way: by campers. The roads were crowded again – but COVID has already proved that we are able and even obliged to sit at home instead of hanging around, to the detriment of health and the Earth! So, even before restrictions return later this fall – we have been stopped in different way.
UK – lots of jobs, but candidates still abroad…
As it was, it was – but the fact is, however, that COVID actually had a significant impact on the current disorders. More precisely – a mix of COVID and BREXIT, but in a completely different way than the opponents of the latter are trying to convince everyone. That means it is not true, after all, that BREXIT closed British borders to European goods and hence the shortages. Exactly the opposite – already at the beginning of this year, it was the EU, especially France, that closed the borders for goods from the UK, which should legally be admitted. This practice particularly affected fish and seafood from Scotland, and the pretext was, of course, COVID and the treatment of the new / old type of customs entry documents with meticulousness exceeding the Italian strike. As we remember, as a result, B. Johnson’s Government surrendered (or just admit that this part of BREXIT propaganda was just a lie from the very beginning) – and retained the privileges of European food imports on the British market. No, there could be no shortage of Spanish cherries – but there were no drivers and store assistants who were willing to work in Tesco, ASDA and other supermarkets and do delivery, unloading and lining goods.
However, even before the pledge to defend the domestic market was not kept, from 1st January 2021 another promise (without which BREXIT would probably not have been voted) – began to be fulfilled. The UK has been closed for the Gastarbeiters. Anyone who has not received or at least applied in time (i.e. before 30th June 2021) for settlement or pre-settlement status in the UK – cannot now be employed. The closed list of specialists sought, rigorously required worker visas and practical difficulties for employers interested in importing personnel from outside the Islands – in a few months paralysed especially the very bottom of trade and services. First, there has been a shortage of people willing to work for the minimum wage in trade (especially hypermarkets), cleaning and delivery, as that had been how the newcomers usually started – and now they do not come. On the other hand, the British benefit system, which a few years ago left some space for earning extra money on small contracts – was reformed so that it is not profitable for those receiving benefits to additionally work and they are pushed to choose. Those remaining solely on Universal Credit were to additionally free up jobs for new entrants, students and so on – or to relieve the social welfare system. As it is easy to guess – most interested people chose to continue their life on benefits, and the vacancies for sellers, warehouse workers, cleaners … remained empty. And those who are still working – once by once returned to furlough (special COVID payment for work abstained) when it was still paid, or are pushed to quarantine, every time when while working meet anyone positively tested.
Thus, COVID and BREXIT together paralysed Britain’s economic daily life, making it a wee more burdensome without compromising in the slightest degree the complacency and profits of the elite.
Hold out the Brexiters and promote electrics?
And again, what now draws attention is the apparent carelessness with which both the rulers and the financial spheres approach the fact that the economy we were used to – in practice has not been functioning for several months. Moreover, everything, even quite obvious gaps and mistakes, seem to be only the implementation of previously adopted plans, the motivations and goals of which are still impossible to guess. So, are we – according to some – actually dealing with the continuation of the greatest in history action promoting passivity and immobilization, if not humanity, then at least the society of a large European state?
After all, reports from queues at petrol stations – are accompanied by subliminal stories about the lucky ones who bought electric cars in time (with Government help of course) and now drive them up to 200 miles without recharging! Or maybe those are right who argue that it is high time to roll up the now unnecessary anti-immigration banner of BREXIT and after a few more weeks of training the Brits – open the border again? Let’s be serious, a few more weeks without fuel, with no mineral water, pasta and toilet paper in hypermarkets, with disgusting dirty toilets – and the staunchest enemies of immigration will rush across the Canal as their grandfathers to Dunkirk, to beg people willing to work to return to the UK!
Regardless of whether and which of these versions is true (maybe all of them?), one thing is certain: someone is playing with Britons again.
By Konrad Rękas