It has been a gloomy week on the sunlit uplands of sovereign Britain, and there is sobering news for those driven to drink by the madness of Brexit.
Fancy a beer to go with your non-existent Nando’s (they temporarily shut 45 restaurants last week because of supply line problems partly caused by you-know-what)? Why not try a cooling pint of nothing? The much-discussed shortage of lorry drivers is disrupting distribution at brewers Heineken, causing shortages of everything from Fosters and Strongbow Dark Fruits to Birra Moretti and the Dutch lager itself.
Pubs in both England and Scotland are reporting orders being delivered with 75% of the stock missing, brutal news for landlords as they gear up for the first Bank Holiday weekend this year where trade won’t be hampered by Covid restrictions. Scottish pub group Mor-Rioghain warned some businesses “will go bankrupt this week and next week because of this distribution chaos”.
Emma McClarkin, CEO of the British Beer & Pub Association explained: “The HGV driver shortage is being felt by our sector like so many others. We are grateful for government engagement with this issue to date, however, more is needed as a matter of urgency to address the driver shortage in the immediate term.”
The industry believes one solution would be tempting EU drivers back to the UK by adding them to the post-Brexit skills shortage occupation list. Yet transport minister Grant Shapps has made it plain that he doesn’t see foreign labour as even a short-term answer, appearing to be more concerned about blowback from Brexiteers than the thought of British businesses going to the wall.
And even if Shapps relents, will it make any difference? The European drivers who built a living on taking goods from the continent to Britain, and then taking new loads back, are understandably wary of increased red tape and the risk of heading home with an empty truck as some exporters give up on exporting. Like the Scots whisky industry, which the SNP claims is suffering £5m per week in lost sales to the EU.
It’s enough to drive you to drink – if there were any drivers and any drink…