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U.K. offering truck drivers visas to combat the driver shortage

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain offered thousands of visas to foreign truckers to combat a driver shortage that has left supermarket shelves empty across the U.K. and caused long lines at gas stations, according to an article by the New York Times.

There has been growing panic about the shortage – a long-term problem exacerbated by the Coronavirus pandemic and Brexit – to the point that there is speculation the military will be brought in to drive trucks.

The British Department for Transport said 5,000 fuel tanker and food truck drivers would be allowed to work in the country for three months before Christmas.

Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps told the BBC that while he did not want to “undercut” British workers, he could not stand by while lines formed outside gas stations.  Shapps said Britain has adequate fuel supplies but asked drivers not to hoard fuel.

“We knew in particular that when we exited the E.U., there would be a need for a backup plan to deal with the situation,” Labour Party leader Keir Starmer told the BBC.

Overall, an estimated 200,000 E.U. citizens left Britain during the pandemic and have not returned, Stephen Castle reported for the New York Times.

David Henig, of the European Center for International Political Economy, said that the disruption could be a feature of life for some time to come.

“We are at the start of an economic transition, and we are not sure what it will lead to,” Henig told Castle.  “We have never seen this before, so we don’t know what happens.”