It is “simply untrue” that the fuel shortage is a Brexit problem, and the real culprit is coronavirus – according to former Tory leader and staunch Brexiteer Sir Iain Duncan Smith.
Writing in The Telegraph on Sunday, the Chingford and Woodford Green MP claimed broadcasters and journalists have “lazily labelled” the shortage of HGV drivers as being down to our decision to leave the European Union back in 2016.
“This is simply untrue. This is a European-wide issue and the culprit is coronavirus,” he wrote.
“The origins of this chronic shortage lie in the long-term implications of locking down so completely … The reality is that, all over Europe, when countries locked down many drivers went home and many more were furloughed, then retired.”
IDS’ comments came after some UK petrol stations reported that they had run out of fuel, with members of the public panic-buying in response to the shortage of HGV drivers.
Meanwhile, Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that there is “no shortage of fuel” and that there is “plenty of petrol in the country”.
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Although Sir Iain claims the issue isn’t one about Brexit, the Road Haulage Association cited our exit from the bloc as one of several factors which has “exacerbated the shortage” in a letter to the Prime Minister in June.
After claiming that many drivers “returned to their country of origin” during lockdown, the association added: “The uncertainty of Brexit and future rights to live and work in the UK forced many drivers to do the same. Again, the vast majority have not yet returned.”
The Tory MP has since been ridiculed online for his remarks – in a classic case of dunking on the Dunc:
Once again, Sir Iain’s comments appear to serve no benefit, which is fitting for the former work and pensions secretary.