It was unclear on Sunday whether the new visa measures would solve the crisis that, for some, echoed the chaos that gripped the country in 2000, when a fuel protest Shook the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair.
“This is going to be part of a learning process that the UK will have to go through,” said David Hennig, a London-based expert on British trade policy for the European Center for International Political Economy, a research institute. He said that while Britain was operating under EU economic rules, workers could move freely between the bloc’s countries.
“We had a high-flow labor economy, and we are transitioning to a stagnant economy,” Mr Hennig said. He said panic buying of fuel was not irrational, especially when it became clear that some gas stations were running dry. He said Britons have seen periodic shortages of goods on supermarket shelves for months.
“Everybody knew something was missing for a while,” said Mr. Hennig, “so it wasn’t like it was coming out of the blue.”
Many countries in Europe are facing driver shortages, so unless companies in the UK offer significantly higher salaries, it is unclear how many workers will take advantage of the three-month visa. “You can make it worth people’s time, but it won’t be cheap and it won’t be easy,” Hennig said, adding that securing a visa involves a lot of paperwork.
Although business groups generally welcomed the government’s move, some expressed doubts that it would be enough. The government’s reversal comes after the UK’s transport and logistics industries urged lawmakers to ease restrictions on visas for EU drivers. Logistics UK, a trade group, had sought 10,000 seasonal visas for drivers, similar to a program for agricultural workers.