A DECISION taken by Boris Johnson to relax immigration rules in the wake of the chaos caused by Brexit has been branded an “utterly humiliating” U-turn by Scotland’s First Minister.
According to a new report in the Financial Times, the Prime Minister has ordered his Cabinet to rapidly fix the snowballing issues exacerbated by the UK’s exit from the EU, including shortages across supermarkets and petrol stations.
The order from the top reportedly came after Johnson got sick of seeing negative headlines about the trouble caused by his policies, with one source telling the paper: “Boris is completely fed up with bad headlines on this and wants it sorted and doesn’t care about visa limits any more.”
The Cabinet will meet today (Friday) to discuss possible measures to address the crisis, with temporary visas for foreign lorry drivers reportedly on the agenda.
Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, was previously one of the strongest opponents to this measure, arguing it would lead to a slew of other industries asking for preferential treatment. However, the severity of the shortages has reportedly led her to change her tune.
Responding to the news on Twitter, Nicola Sturgeon accused Johnson of having sought to cut immigration for “ideological reasons”.
She said: “If the PM had listened to voices telling him that ending free movement and cutting immigration for ideological reasons – as well as being wrong in principle – would lead to critical labour shortages, this vital but utterly humiliating climbdown wouldn’t have been necessary.”
If the PM had listened to voices telling him that ending free movement and cutting immigration for ideological reasons – as well as being wrong in principle – would lead to critical labour shortages, this vital but utterly humiliating climbdown wouldn’t have been necessary. https://t.co/MK8tVeoHQR
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) September 24, 2021
SNP MP Anne McLaughlin added: “Shambles, utter shambles. Glad the Prime Minister has finally agreed and they’re doing it now but all of this stress on people is completely unnecessary.”
Gavin Newlands, who represents Paisley and Renfrewshire North for the SNP, said: “Had the UK Govt done this months ago when I repeatedly urged them to, we probably wouldn’t be seeing these shortages or petrol station closures. At the very least, they wouldn’t be anywhere near as bad.
“A day late and a dollar short. An utter shambles of a Govt.”
Had the UK Gov’t done this months ago when I repeatedly urged them to, we probably wouldn’t be seeing these shortages or petrol station closures. At the very least, they wouldn’t be anywhere near as bad.
A day late & a dollar short.
An utter shambles of a Gov’t.#BrexitChaos #HGV https://t.co/UqOt3CAh3h
— Gavin Newlands MP (@GavNewlandsSNP) September 24, 2021
Other social media users claimed Johnson’s move was the first step in a climbdown from the posturing of Brexit, and suggested it amounted to an admission that the Tories had mishandled immigration policy.
One option reportedly being considered by the UK Cabinet is an expansion of the seasonal worker scheme, which currently allows 30,000 foreign labourers to take jobs harvesting crops.
The National Farmers’ Union has called for a much broader “Covid-19 recovery visa” to be brought in to help in areas not covered by the seasonal work scheme, including meat processing.
The UK poultry industry has seen acute shortages of labour, leading to popular menu items being pulled from chains such as Nando’s, KFC, and Gregg’s.
The UK Government has deflected the blame for the shortages away from Brexit and onto Covid, claiming that such issues in supply chains were being felt across Europe.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps claimed on Friday morning that there were “very large and even larger [HGV driver] shortages in other EU countries”.
It is unclear whether any visa introduced by Johnson’s government will be enough to lure workers back from mainland Europe, especially as the Tories have claimed that there is an acute shortage of drivers there as well.