‘No thank you, Prime Minister’, Polish trucker says to British Christmas visa offer

File photo. A haulage truck at the Port of Dover in Dover, Britain, 24 December 2020. [EPA-EFE/ANDY RAIN]

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s proposed three-month working visa for European truckers just isn’t a sweet enough deal to convince 35-year-old Polish truck driver Jakub Pajka to go back to Britain. And he’s not alone.

A post-Brexit shortage of lorry drivers – estimated to be around 100,000 – as the COVID-19 pandemic eases has sown chaos through British supply chains in everything from food to fuel has raised the spectre of disruptions and price rises in the run-up to Christmas.

Long queues and fuel rationing as Britain faces truck driver shortage

Lengthy queues of vehicles snaked their way to gas stations in Britain where an acute shortage of truck drivers has led to fuel rationing and some pumps running dry, and prompted the government to consider issuing temporary work visas.

The British government on Sunday announced a plan to issue temporary visas for 5,000 foreign truck drivers as a response to the acute shortfall of truck drivers that made gas station pumps run dry in cities across the country. The visas will expire on 24 December.

Pajka, who quit his job in Britain as it was leaving the European Union, said three months just wasn’t long enough for it to be worthwhile.

“No drivers want to move for only three months just to make it easier for the British to organise their holidays,” he said sitting behind a wheel of his red truck on a parking lot just outside Poland’s capital Warsaw.

The additional money couldn’t offset the struggle of moving countries, the threat posed by migrants trying to cross the English Channel on the back of a truck or the separation from his family, he added.

“The money you can earn in the UK does not compensate such driver for all the dangerous things that happen to him there,” he said pointing to the scuffles with migrants he witnessed in ports of Calais and Dunkirk.

On a different parking lot outside of Warsaw, Jacek Rembikowski, a 60-year old truck driver with 25 years of experience, also said Brexit somewhat influenced his decision to return home after working in Britain for seven years.

Despite his thirst for adventure, and his fond memories driving from “Norway to Portugal,” he says he now prefers to stay in Poland.

“(There was) an uncertainty as to how we will be treated in this situation,” he said. “Whether Brexit will shake up not only the industry but also whether drivers will still be wanted.”

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