The military is expected to be called in to distribute goods to supermarkets following a driver shortage caused by Brexit and Covid, the government has been told.
Industry leaders warn of gaps in shelves due to an “unimaginable” collapse in supply chains triggered by a shortage of at least 60,000 truck drivers.
Candy giant Haribo is among companies struggling to supply stores amid a “perfect storm” of European drivers avoiding the UK and canceled driving tests due to the pandemic.
Boris Johnson has faced problems in the Commons, but has dodged a call for the relaxation of post-Brexit immigration rules to allow more drivers to work in this country.
Now it has been revealed that the suggestion to use the military was raised at a meeting of industry representatives and officials from the Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) .
A delegate from Premier Foods, which owns brands such as Mr Kipling, Bisto, Ambrosia and Paxo, pointed out that some soldiers hold heavy truck licenses.
âIt was one of many ideas put forward during an industry brainstorming session,â said a spokesperson, while stressing that the company had âplans in place to manage the situation within our supply chain “.
At the meeting, a representative from Asda, the third largest UK supermarket group after Tesco and Sainsbury’s, said the company “is just keeping its head above water”.
But they warned that any spike in demand this summer “would pose significant challenges and disruption to us.”
The British Retail Consortium said: âThe government must rapidly increase the number of heavy-duty test drives while seeking a longer term solution to this problem. “
The Road Haulage Association has also urged the Prime Minister to act, warning foreign drivers are unsure of their rights when it comes to working in the UK after its withdrawal from the EU.
In the Commons, Mr Johnson was urged by a Scottish National Party MP to “add heavy truck drivers to the list of shortage occupations in the UK”.
“Everyone knows there have been huge problems with the shortage of truck drivers in this country, and this has only been made worse by Brexit,” warned David Linden.
In response, the Prime Minister said: âI think the most important thing is to get all of our workforce back to work.
âThere are currently millions of people still on leave. Of course, there are labor shortages right now, but we need to get people back to work, and that’s why we need to keep rolling out vaccines like we are doing. “
A defense ministry spokesperson said he had not received an official request for support, and a government spokesperson said: “There are no plans to use military personnel in this. scenario.”