The UK Prime Minister delivered a speech yesterday as the grand finale to his Conservative party’s conference. In it, he defended the post-Brexit transition the country is currently undergoing, and claimed the UK is on a road to “leveling up.”
But the reality in the UK has painted a very different picture to the one Johnson tried to paint in his remarks.
Faced with crippling shortages of truck drivers, care workers, butchers and other professionals, Johnson has doubled down that this is not the fault of Brexit, but rather, a failure of industry leaders to invest in a domestic workforce.
Earlier in the week, Johnson did a round of interviews with broadcasters in which he said conditions were too poor for long-haul drivers, and claimed that employers were responsible for the low uptake of emergency visas. Only 127 people have applied for the recently announced visa scheme to recruit more drivers.
A shortage of drivers has caused a fuel crisis and a shortage of food. While Johnson has claimed a “global shortage” of drivers, no other European countries have seen these shortages, leading experts to point to Brexit, which ended free movement and revoked the rights of workers.
But the Road Haulage Association said Johnson’s blame on recruitment for the lack of temporary visa applications was false, and not the way recruitment works. The only way it works, RHA’s policy chief Rod McKenzie said, is that individuals decide whether to apply for the short-term visas, and clearly so far, very few have thought it was a good idea. McKenzie asked why drivers would give up well paying jobs in Europe to drive trucks in Britain for a short period of time, labeling it an unattractive offer.
In his conference speech, Boris doubled down further, breezing past what he labels short-term side effects of Covid, rather than deep strains from Brexit.
Johnson will need to show before the next election that Brexit brought benefits. But with a fuel crisis, rising gas and electricity costs, higher costs of living, a tax rise, a lack of NHS staff and social care, among other issues — it looks like a hard task for the Prime Minister.