Photo : Reuters/PeterCziborra
29 September 2021, Wednesday
By Vaishnavi Iyer
UK: Lorry driver shortage highlights a wider European problem
The British government has referred to its current situation as a ‘manufactured situation’, Grant Shapps, the UK transport secretary mentioned about trucker’s associations being “desperate to have more European drivers undercutting British salaries". The ministries and government have had to ensure the citizens about having no fuel shortage and that Britain is well stocked on the item. However, for the last three days, citizens have been queuing for fuel furthering the panic buying process. BP, a petroleum major mentioned that nearly 1/3rd of its supplies was worn out by 26 September, a result to which the company cut supply of 90% of its fuel stations to ensure fair distribution. Among other suppliers reporting fuel shortage was Shell. With worldwide fuel and gas prices on the hike, especially in Europe; the UK government has blamed it on a lack of lorry drivers.
Facing a shortfall of 100,000 truck operators, 25,000 heavy goods vehicle operators, the UK is in the midst of an acute shortage of drivers. A few other problems include separate individualized tests to deliver hazardous substances, drivers who left the EU in 2020 yet to return home and finally the older drivers nearing retirement. Truck and Cargo drivers have claimed taht driving in the UK is less attractive than anywhere in the continent, owing to the lack of toilet, shower and canteen facilities, along with lesser wages and higher taxes.
A group of analysts have suggested a primary reason for the same to be Brexit. Keir Starmer, leader of the Opposition slammed the government for failing to foresee shortages of labour post Brexit. The shortage of labour has affected the farming and food processing sectors as well. Government still maintains that the shortage of the truck drivers is due to the pandemic and has issued 5000 temporary visas to incentivize the truck drivers. The incentives seem to be failing. The UK in the early 2000s relied on drivers coming from Eastern Europe, after leaving the bloc, the drivers opted for employment in other countries around the continent accounting for better pay and working conditions. While the shortage remains, the UK says it wouldn't want uneducated people from the EU. Critics are certain that the 3-month visa will not incentivise drivers given the already heavy UK taxation policies, they would prefer any other European country over the UK.
Following Brexit, the government has pushed for domestic countries to replace reliance on labour from across the continent; however, the process is cumbersome and difficult. To address the shortage of truck drivers, the government has initiated tests and with the help of the defence ministry sought to train new drivers. About 4000 people are being trained for HGVs. According to industry leaders, the “short term fix” is said to render pointless as the labour crisis will worsen by Christmas. The UK has also handed out similar 5000 visas to poultry workers to ease pressure on the food industry. Driver shortfall across Europe has risen to 400,000 as predicted by the Transport intelligence and Brexit seems to be one of the probable causes of the shortfall owing to mismanagement of the labour force after the exit. While the UK re-emphasizes its sovereignty devoid of the EU; the overall socio-economic crises fuelled in the middle of the pandemic may lead to further criticisms.
Luke Hurst, “UK lorry driver shortage a stark example of a wider European problem”, Euronews, 29 September 2021 (https://www.euronews.com/2021/09/28/uk-lorry-driver-shortage-a-stark-example-of-a-wider-european-problem)
By Joeana Cera Matthews
Russia: Foreign Ministry threatens to block YouTube
On 29 September, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that they would block YouTube in a ‘retaliatory’ move. On 28 September, YouTube had deleted state-sponsored Russia Today’s (RT) German language channels. The channels were removed after YouTube accused RT of having violated its COVID misinformation policy, which was not taken well by the Kremlin. The Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor expects YouTube to reverse the decision at the earliest. (“Russia threatens to block YouTube”, Deutsche Welle, 29 September 2021; https://www.dw.com/en/russia-threatens-to-block-youtube/a-59349681)
EU: Brexit-affected countries to receive emergency aid
On 28 September, EU governments approved an emergency aid of EUR 5.4 billion for those member states who were negatively impacted by Brexit. Ireland and France are expected to be the top recipients receiving EUR 1.1 billion and EUR 735 million, respectively. The funding provided will cover the costs and compensate for the financial losses incurred due to Brexit. After Brexit came into effect in January, trade has reduced significantly between the UK and the EU. EU’s fishing industry has been hit the most. (“EU approves relief funds for member states hurt by Brexit”, Deutsche Welle, 28 September 2021; https://www.dw.com/en/eu-approves-relief-funds-for-member-states-hurt-by-brexit/a-59340379)
France: EUR 3 billion defense deal signed with Greece; Macron asks Europe to ‘not be naïve'
On 28 September, France has signed a defense deal with Greece after the recent rift over AUKUS with Australia and the US. Under the France-Greece deal, Greece will be supplied with warships by France. Three Belharra frigates manufactured by the French will be given to Greece with the option of purchasing another. Following the meeting between French President Emmanuel Macron and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Macron stated that the AUKUS situation would not affect the French strategy regarding the Indo-Pacific. He also advised the Europeans to stop being naïve when pressurized by powerful countries and instead to prove themselves by staging an efficient defense. (“France and Greece sign multibillion-euro defense deal”, Deutsche Welle, 28 September 2021; https://www.dw.com/en/france-and-greece-sign-multibillion-euro-defense-deal/a-59334986)