UK Industry Minister Blames Fuel Crisis on Bosses Yearning for Pre-Brexit Low Wages
14:41 GMT 01.10.2021 (Updated: 16:11 GMT 01.10.2021)
The Conservative Party's four-day conference begins in Manchester on Sunday amid petrol panic-buying, fuelled by reports of lorry driver shortages and rumours of a Christmas turkey shortage blamed on Brexit.
The UK's industry minister has blamed recent food and fuel panics on employers lobbying for a return to the pre-Brexit days of cheap migrant labour.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng made the comments in an interview published
on Friday by Conservative Home
, a website for the governing party's rank-and-file membership, two days before its conference kicks off in Manchester.
The interviewer suggested that the haulage, poultry and meat processing industries "want to go back to the old ways" and were "trying to use public pressure to get you to change course" and issue hundreds of thousands of work visas to citizens of EU member states.
Kwarteng agreed, adding that the key issue behind his Spelthorne constituency on the western outskirts of London voting 60 to 40 to leave the European Union (EU) was stagnating incomes.
“I remember three weeks before the referendum in 2016, I came out of Staines station and someone came up to me and said 'I’m voting for Brexit'", Kwarteng recalled. "And I said, ‘Oh, why are you doing that?’ And he said, ‘Well I haven’t had a wage increase in 15 years’. And that was in his mind what this was all about".
"And so, having rejected the low-wage, high-immigration model, we were always going to try to transition to something else", the minister stressed. “What we’re seeing now is part of that transition".
"You’re quite right to say people are resisting that, particularly employers that were benefiting from an influx of labour that could keep wages low”, Kwarteng agreed.
30 September 2021, 23:32 GMT
The minister also explained how big finance capital had tried to talk down the post-Brexit economy, but insisted that "between Equilibrium A and Equilibrium B there’s always going to be a transition period".
“The head of Goldman Sachs said to me three years ago, ‘No one’s going to invest in the UK because of Brexit’", Kwarteng said. “And then about three months ago I said to him, 'Look at all the investment'. He said, ‘Ah, that’s because your assets are cheap’. They can hop on the left foot and then hop on the right".
Opposition Labour Party leaders gathered for their conference in Brighton this week lined up to blame
Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Brexit policy for petrol pumps running dry — and urged the government to issue visas
for all 100,000 heavy goods vehicle (HGV) driver vacancies claimed buy the Road Haulage Association.
Some 27 percent of British petrol stations reported running dry of fuel
on Thursday, down from 90 percent on Sunday, backing up government assurances
that the situation was stabilising as motorists go back to only filling up when they normally would.