Petrol station crisis back under control, says Britain

A woman waiting to fill up a container at a petrol station in Leyton, Britain, on Sept 29, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (REUTERS) - Britain said on Thursday (Sept 30) that a petrol station crisis caused by an acute shortage of truck drivers was back under control but many pumps remained closed in major cities, leaving motorists searching or queueing for hours to fill their tanks.

In a chaotic week that saw some people fighting and filling up old water bottles at petrol stations, British ministers have repeatedly said the crisis is easing though they ordered soldiers on Wednesday to start driving fuel tankers.

"That crisis is now absolutely something which is back under control," Treasury Chief Secretary Simon Clarke said.

The Petrol Retailers Association, which represents independent retailers that account for about two-thirds of all the 8,380 British filling stations, said on Wednesday that 27 per cent of members reported being out of fuel and it expected the situation to further improve in the next 24 hours.

Reuters reporters said some gas stations remained closed in London and the surrounding areas, and that those that were open often had some pumps closed.

The petrol station crisis has provoked scorn in some other European capitals, with senior politicians suggesting that the trucker shortage was a clear consequence of the 2016 referendum decision to leave the bloc.

British ministers have repeatedly denied that Brexit played a role, though tens of thousands of European Union truckers left during the Brexit maelstrom, and cited the Covid-19 lockdowns, which prevented tens of thousands of trucker tests.

Asked if Britain would be in a better position had it not left the single market, Mr Clarke said: "I really don't accept that."

He added: "The idea that this is about Brexit is to try and take us back into what is really... quite a negative conversation around opportunities foregone.

"If you look at the situation in Germany, if you look at the situation in Poland, if you look at the situation in France, they share these problems too."

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