Fuel shortage schadenfreude as Europe taunts Britain

France says shortages expose Britain's departure from the EU as an 'intellectual fraud'

Britain’s supply chain crisis has been met with scathing criticism from European commentators.

Britain’s supply chain crisis has been met with scathing criticism from European commentators, while France said it exposed the failures of leaving the EU.

Analysts on the continent said the UK was finally feeling the economic impact of Brexit after supply shortages began to bite.

Queues at petrol stations over the past week came amid separate concerns over shortages of lorry drivers and consumer goods in the lead-up to Christmas.

While the UK government has blamed the pandemic and highlighted global supply chain problems, critics in Europe pointed the finger squarely at Brexit.

“Every day, we see the intellectual fraud that was Brexit,” said France’s European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune.

Olaf Scholz, who is in pole position to be Germany's next chancellor after Sunday's election, similarly pointed the finger at Brexit when asked about the subject on Monday.

"We worked very hard to convince the British not to leave the union. Now they decided different and I hope they will manage the problems coming from that," he said.

There was similar criticism in European media. Le Point, a French newspaper, described a “great collapse” of the British economy, which it said would be politically costly for the UK government.

“Boris Johnson has his hands full,” it said of the UK prime minister. “Fuel and food shortages are a direct consequence of Brexit and the pandemic”.

Olaf Scholz, who is well placed to be Germany's next chancellor, addressed Britain's supply problems on Monday. Getty

Liberation, another French paper, said the British economy was moving at a slow pace after its withdrawal from the EU.

“The UK is starting to see the concrete economic consequences after the pandemic masked the effects for months,” it said.

“Not a day goes by without a restaurant chef complaining about the lack of staff, without someone posting photos of empty supermarket shelves or someone lamenting the absence of milkshakes at McDonald’s”.

Anne Saenen, a correspondent for Dutch news channel RTL, told her audience that “the British are really starting to feel Brexit now”.

“While many European countries are slowly starting to recover economically after the coronavirus crisis, Britain is lagging behind,” she said.

In Italy, the newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano described the labour shortage linked to the fuel crisis as a “Brexit effect”.

“Boris Johnson is dealing with bitter evidence that Britain needs European immigrants, despite Brexit closing its borders,” it said.

The prime minister “seems to have no escape in opting for the most indigestible solution to the Tory Brexitieri.”

The German magazine Der Spiegel described Britain in one article as the “kingdom of empty shelves” due to supply chain problems.

“The country is missing 100,000 lorry drivers, and goods,” it said. “The supply shortages could get even more drastic.”

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 25: A man holds a sign directing the heavy traffic queues outside a busy petrol station in Brighton, England. Getty

The fallout from Brexit has continued to cause political tensions since the UK’s full withdrawal from the bloc in January, especially around Northern Ireland.

The UK wants to renegotiate the disputed Northern Ireland Protocol, but the EU rejects this. Britain has suggested it could take unilateral action.

Mairead McGuinness, an Irish member of the European Commission, said on Sunday that “threats are not helpful”.

“I don't think that is the first approach, we should try to find solutions,” she told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

Britain’s fuel crisis has been blamed on a mixture of Brexit, the pandemic and unnecessary stockpiling by motorists.

The UK government has pointed the finger at a shortage of lorry drivers and sought to address the problem by streamlining training.

But it bowed to demands for temporary worker visas on Saturday by announcing 5,000 people would get three-month permits until Christmas.

Industry groups have blamed unnecessary panic buying. The motoring association AA said there was no underlying shortage of fuel.

Updated: September 27, 2021, 12:00 PM