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Empty shelves are partly down to Brexit – but not everyone will admit it

Supermarket shortages are being blamed on the 'pingdemic' - but Brexit must take its share of responsibility after 25,000 lorry drivers returned to the EU

Empty shelves at a Sainsbury's store in Cardiff
Empty shelves at a Sainsbury's store in Cardiff

Credit: Getty Images

It has been a gloomy week on the sunlit uplands of sovereign Britain, as supermarket shoppers are greeted with empty shelves where familiar products used to be. There are shortages of fresh vegetables at Tesco, shortages of frozen foods at Sainsburys and shortages of glitter cannons and divers’ helmets in the middle of Lidl.

But how much of what we are seeing is entirely down to the pingdemic – workers staying home after being told to self-isolate – and how much is the fault of you-know-what? When Leavers are asked where the blame lies, Brexit seems to be the hardest word.

Baking giants Warburtons say a lack of loaves is because of “higher levels of absence due to the rise in community infection rates of Covid-19 and the knock-on effect that has with more people having to self-isolate.”

But the company concedes its current problems are due largely to a national shortage of lorry drivers – and 25,000 EU haulage workers have gone home to Europe since the transition period ended. Could Warburtons’ reticence to blame the B-word be explained by the fact that their chairman Jonathan Warburton was a keen Leaver, writing in November 2016: “Brexit is a very good thing to have happened. We are well out of the rotting corpse of Europe”?

Meanwhile, the Brexit-crazy Telegraph did not mention the effects of leaving the EU at all in its 978-word, front-page report on supermarket shortages last Thursday. Instead, it reported the shortfall of lorry drivers had been “caused in part by cancelled driving tests”.

With 600,000 told to self-isolate in England and Wales in the week between July 8-15 and supermarkets reporting delivery lorries queueing up with no-one to unload them, it would be just as misleading to pretend that pinged workers were having little or no effect on the lack of some goods.

Yet if it were Brexit that was having little or no effect, shelves would be full north of the border, where the Protect Scotland app pinged only 6,734 people between July 1-15.

Instead, there are reports of shortages from Edinburgh to Aberdeen, with Garth Gulland of Glasgow’s Roots and Fruits telling The National: “Brexit is a nightmare. It used to be so smooth… This is like riding a bike that has been left out in the rain for two years, it is creaking, all the gears are juddering, we are trying our hardest to cycle it, but it keeps jamming.”

In other words, while pings can only get better, it does not look like Brexit can. If only the Leavers were big enough to admit it.

See inside the July 29: Flake News! edition

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