Troop call? British army may soon be deployed to deliver fuel

The shortage of tanker drivers last week sparked fears of pumps running dry, triggering panic-buying and some desperate motorists filling plastic bottles with fuel, and now the government is planning to deploy the British army to help ease the supply

Panic buying

The week-long crisis has triggered panic-buying and sparked violence at forecourts as critics blame Britain's exit from the European Union, the coronavirus pandemic and a lack of foresight in replacing thousands of foreign drivers leaving the country.

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Plans to deploy troops

British troops are expected to be deployed within days to help ease a fuel supply crisis, the government said on Wednesday, as the retail and hospitality sectors called for foreign workers to be allowed to fill post-Brexit vacancies.

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Reserve tanker fleet on duty

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told Sky News that soldiers could be delivering fuel supplies to forecourts "in the next couple of days", to cut long queues that have clogged up filling stations.

The government's reserve tanker fleet, driven by civilians, was also due to be sent out to deliver fuel on Wednesday afternoon, he added on Twitter.

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150 deployed, another 150 ready

A total of 150 military drivers have been put in a "state of readiness", with another 150 to deploy "in the coming days", a source told Britain's domestic Press Association news agency.

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Reassurances from government

Officials from Kwarteng's department and the Ministry of Defence are reportedly working with the petrol industry on where best to send resources. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday sought to reassure the public there was enough fuel in stock and the situation was returning to normal.

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Violent consequences

Frustrations from fuel shortage even spilled over into threats and violence on some forecourts, while frontline healthcare and public sector personnel pleaded for priority access to get to work.

The government campaigned for an end to free movement across Europe during Brexit, promising to "take back control" of what it saw as unchecked immigration. But last weekend it reversed entry rules to offer foreign truckers a three-month visa waiver, hoping to ease a wider shortage of drivers that has hit supply chains.

(Photograph:AFP)

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