Fuel crisis: Boris Johnson warned UK ‘sleepwalking to disaster’ A YEAR ago

Petrol station owner describes customers’ disorderly behaviour

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Last week BP and Tesco announced they were having issues with supplying fuel to some petrol stations due to a shortage of HGV drivers. Some petrol stations were closed and over the last four days scenes of people panic buying fuel have been reported across Britain. The Army has now been put on standby to help deliver fuel to forecourts amid long queues of drivers waiting to fill up their tanks and some pump closures.

As many as 150 military tanker drivers will be on call to get fuel to petrol stations that have run out.

Rod Mckenzie from the Road Haulage Association has been among those taking to the airwaves in recent days to discuss the causes of the current fuel crisis.

The industry chief has warned that the UK is 100,000 lorry drivers short due to the combined effects of COVID-19 and Brexit.

However, Mr Mckenzie’s comments come more than a year after he made a similarly stark prediction about the disruption to the UK’s supply chains.

Speaking about the UK’s border plans to BBC News back in early September last year, he said: “We are heading for a shambles.

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“It is a real case of the Government sleepwalking to a disaster with the border preparations that we have, whether it is a deal or no-deal Brexit at the end of December.

“The reason is, there’s an awful lot of different and apparently contradictory IT systems, probably about 10.

“We’re not clear whether they work because they’re new and untested and we’re not clear whether they talk to each other.”

The IT systems he referred to include software to help hauliers declare goods before they reach the border.

Mr Mckenzie added: “So what that really means in terms of everyone who’s watching this programme is that the supply chain on which we all depend to get the things we need could be disrupted.

“There is a lack of Government focus and action on this, and we are calling on the Government to act now before it’s too late.”

He claimed the “dangers were enormous” as the UK emerged from the effects of COVID-19 and said it would be “difficult” if the country was then hit by a Brexit-related crisis.

He added: “The difference here is between a disaster area and a disaster area with rocket boosters on.”

The haulage chief’s comments came before the UK’s transition period for leaving the EU ended on January 31 this year.

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At the time the Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended the Government’s planning for after Brexit.

He acknowledged that the public may have concerns but said the government “will help” them, adding: “We will get through this.”

The UK left the EU on January 31 last year and struck a trade agreement with the European bloc at the end of December.

On Tuesday Transport Secretary Grant Shapps admitted that Brexit has been a factor in the current fuel crisis.

Addressing the media, he said: “Brexit I hear mentioned a lot, and it no doubt will have been a factor.

“On the other hand, it has actually helped us to change rules to be able to test more drivers more quickly. So, it has actually worked in both ways.”

The Transport Secretary also said there are indications that the crisis is beginning to ease.

He said: “There are now the first very tentative signs of stabilisation in forecourt storage which won’t be reflected in the queues as yet.”
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