U.K. facing a ‘difficult winter’

Empty shelves that usually stock bottled water at Sainsbury’s supermarket, Greenwich Peninsular, on September 19, 2021 in London, England.

Chris J Ratcliffe | Getty Images

LONDON — Britain has been plunged into uncertainty as issues over gasoline, electricity and food have prompted warnings of “a really difficult winter” for the country.

A significant lack of truck drivers has meant deliveries of fuel and goods have fallen short.

In a bid to incentivize people to take the job, some employers have reportedly offered salaries as high as £70,000 ($95,750) a year, with joining bonuses of £2,000.

Speaking to ITV News on Thursday, Paul Scully, the U.K.’s minister for small businesses, warned that “this is going to be a really difficult winter for people.”

“We know this is going to be a challenge and that’s why we don’t underestimate the situation that we all find ourselves in,” he said. However, Scully told Times Radio on Friday that there was “no need for people to go out and panic buy.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said earlier this week that there was no shortage of fuel in the U.K., and people should continue to buy gas as normal. He also described the U.K.’s food supply chain as “highly resilient,” but acknowledged some businesses in the industry were facing challenges and said the government was having meetings with representatives from the sector.

Gas station closures

As supplies of some essential goods have dwindled, reports have emerged of empty shelves and long lines of cars outside gas stations.

In a BBC interview Friday, U.K. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said people should continue to buy gasoline as usual, adding that military personnel would be brought in to drive trucks if it would help the situation.

Vehicles queue for fuel at a Sainsbury’s petrol station on September 24, 2021 in Weymouth, England.

Finnbarr Webster | Getty Images

Oil giant BP confirmed Friday that it had temporarily closed a handful of its U.K. gas stations due to shortages of unleaded gasoline and diesel. 

“These have been caused by some delays in the supply chain which has been impacted by the industry-wide driver shortages across the U.K., and there are many actions being taken to address the issue,” a spokesperson said via email.

“We continue to work with our haulier supplier to minimize any future disruption and to ensure efficient and effective deliveries to serve our customers. We are prioritising deliveries to motorway service areas, major trunk roads and sites with largest demand.” 

A spokesperson for Exxon Mobil‘s Esso told CNBC that a small number of the sites it operated in the U.K. had been impacted by fuel shortages, but that the company was “working closely with all parties in our distribution network to optimize supplies and minimize any inconvenience to customers.”

In an emailed statement on Friday, a spokesperson for Tesco, the U.K.’s largest supermarket chain and an operator of 500 gas stations, said, “We have good availability…

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