Prime minister Boris Johnson has said the UK will not resort to “uncontrolled immigration” to solve the country’s supply chain problems.
Seeming to hit back at industry bodies that have called on the government to introduce longer-term visas for international workers to fill UK labour shortages, Johnson told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: "What we can’t do in all these sectors is simply go back to the tired, failed old model and reach for the lever called ‘uncontrolled immigration,’ and get people in at low wages.
“And yes, there will be a period of adjustment, but that is, I think, what we need to see in this country.”
Johnson’s comments come as army tanker drivers began delivering fuel to petrol stations as part of Operation Escalin, designed to mitigate the worst of the shortages in London and the Southeast.
Responding to claims by the National Pig Association that up to 100,000 pigs may be slaughtered because labour shortages have led to excess pigs on farms, Johnson said this was the “reality” of the UK’s meat industry.
He said: “I hate to break it to you, Andrew, but I’m afraid our food processing industry does involve killing a lot of animals, that is the reality. Your viewers need to understand that. That’s just what happens.
“If I may say so, the great hecatomb of pigs that you describe has not yet actually taken place. Let’s see what happens.”
Chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak told BBC’s Radio 4 there is no “magic wand” to solve the UK’s supply chain disruptions.
He said the government is doing "everything we can to mitigate” shortages.
"There are things that we can do and should do and it is reasonable that people expect us to do what we can," he said.
"Whether it's short-term visas, speeding up testing capacity for HGV drivers, of course we should do all those things and we are doing all those things, but we can't wave a magic wand and make global supply chain challenges disappear overnight."
Meanwhile, more than a quarter of businesses say reduced stock caused by supply chain disruptions is putting pressure on their operations.
A report, by accountancy firm BDO, found 29% of 500 mid-sized businesses surveyed said pricing of their products or services will need to increase in the next three to six months.
Over a third (34%) reported having reduced product lines and services on offer, with a further 30% planning to do the same this month. A similar proportion (29%) expect these reductions to be long term.
Ed Dwan, partner at BDO, said: “Brexit, global supply chain issues and the long tail of Covid-19 has created a perfect storm for UK businesses. After navigating the challenges of the pandemic and hoping for some respite, businesses have found themselves facing more major disruption, with those across almost all sectors reporting staff shortages.
“This is an era of upheaval, and the challenges faced by the UK’s mid tier – the engine of the UK’s economy – points to a long road ahead.”
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