Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, stated on Sunday that he would not revert to “uncontrolled immigration” to solve the fuel, gas, and Christmas food shortages, implying that such difficulties were part of the post-Brexit adjustment phase.
Johnson was forced to defend his administration again at the commencement of his Conservative Party’s convention, this time against concerns from individuals unable to acquire gasoline for their cars, merchants warning of Christmas shortages, and gas firms grappling with a jump in wholesale prices.
The British leader had hoped to use the conference to wrap up COVID-19 after more than 18 months and focused on his election promises to address regional inequality, crime, and social care in 2019.
Instead, the prime minister finds himself on the back foot nine months after Britain completed its exit from the European Union – a departure he said would give the country the freedom to better shape its economy.
“The way forward for our country is not to just pull the big lever marked uncontrolled immigration, and allow in huge numbers of people to do work … So what I won’t do is go back to the old failed model of low wages, low skills supported by uncontrolled immigration,” he told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
“When people voted for change in 2016 and … again in 2019 as they did, they voted for the end of a broken model of the UK economy that relied on low wages and low skill and chronic low productivity, and we are moving away from that.”
It was the closest the prime minister has come to admitting that Britain’s exit from the EU had contributed to strains in supply chains and the labor force, stretching everything from fuel deliveries to potential shortages of turkeys for Christmas.
“There will be a period of adjustment, but that is I think what we need to see,” he said.
He made clear, though, that he would not open the floodgates of immigration to fill such shortages, instead putting the onus on employers to raise salaries and recruit more employees.
Shortages of employees caused by Brexit and the COVID-19 epidemic have wreaked havoc in several areas of the economy, interrupting fuel and pharmaceutical supplies and putting over 100,000 pigs at risk of being slaughtered owing to a lack of slaughterhouse personnel.
Oliver Dowden, the Conservative Party’s head, said the government was taking steps to employ additional truck drivers in general, and that military tanker troops were being trained to begin gasoline deliveries on Monday.
“We will make sure that people have their turkey for Christmas, and I know that for the Environment Secretary George Eustice this is absolutely top of his list,” he told Sky News.
Rather than the reset Johnson hoped to preside over in the northern English city of Manchester, the conference looks set to be overshadowed by the supply-chain crises and criticism of the government’s withdrawal of a top-up to a state benefit for low-income households.
Johnson may also come under fire for breaking with the Conservatives’ traditional stance as the party of low taxes after increasing them to help the health and social care sectors.
“We don’t want to raise taxes, of course, but what we will not do is be irresponsible with the public finances,” he said. “If I can possibly avoid it, I do not want to raise taxes again, of course not.”