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Panic buying leaves UK fuel pumps dry

·2-min read

Many British petrol stations have run dry across major English cities after panic buying deepened a supply chain crisis triggered by a shortage of truck drivers.

A dire post-Brexit shortage of transport drivers in Britain has sown chaos through supply chains in everything from food to fuel, raising the spectre of disruptions and price rises in the run up to Christmas.

Just days after Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government spent millions of pounds to avert a food shortage due to a spike in prices for natural gas and its byproduct, carbon dioxide, ministers repeatedly asked people to refrain from panic buying.

But queues of dozens of cars snaked back from petrol stations across the land on Sunday, swallowing up supplies and forcing many petrol stations to simply close.

Pumps across British cities were either closed or had signs saying fuel was unavailable.

The Petrol Retailers Association, which represents independent fuel retailers which now account for 65 per cent of all UK forecourts, said members had reported that 50-90 per cent of pumps were dry in some areas.

"We are unfortunately seeing panic buying of fuel in many areas of the country," the association's executive director Gordon Balmer said.

"We need some calm. Please don't panic buy: if people drain the network then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Britain is considering calling in the army to ensure fuel supplies reach consumers, according to The Times and Financial Times.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said there was no shortage of fuel and urged people to refrain from panic buying.

Hauliers, petrol stations and retailers warned that there were no quick fixes, however, as the shortfall of truck drivers - estimated to be around 100,000 - was so acute, and because transporting fuel demands additional training and licensing.

BP said on Sunday that nearly a third of its British petrol stations had run out of the two main grades of fuel as panic buying forced the government to suspend competition laws and allow firms to work together to ease shortages.

The government on Sunday announced a plan to issue temporary visas for 5000 foreign truck drivers.

Around 25,000 truck drivers returned to Europe before Brexit and Britain was unable to test 40,000 drivers during COVID-19 lockdowns.

Business leaders have warned the government's plan is a short-term fix and will not solve an acute labour shortage.

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