The government is planning to relax rules on the number of deliveries foreign drivers can make in the UK in a bid to ease ongoing supply chain issues.

Current restrictions mean foreign drivers can only make two trips to the UK from the continent to make deliveries each week, but the government wants to relax cabotage restrictions to allow drivers to make unlimited journeys within a fortnight.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “The temporary changes we’re consulting on to cabotage rules will also make sure foreign hauliers in the UK can use their time effectively and get more goods moving in the supply chain at a time of high demand.”

Ministers are hoping to make the changes in time to ease supply chain pressures in the run-up to Christmas but UK drivers are worried about losing out on jobs.

“Many British hauliers will be frustrated with the likelihood their work could be going to EU firms at a time when promoting the job to a new generation of Britons was apparently the government’s priority and they don’t want uncontrolled immigration – which this is, at least for six months,” said the Road Haulage Association.

“Although it may help the Christmas supply chain, the effects on hardworking UK haulage firms could be substantial in terms of losing work to cheaper EU rivals.”

While the world is facing supply chain issues as the global economy rebounds from coronavirus restrictions, the UK continues to be particularly hard hit due to other factors such as Brexit. 

The country has been hit by petrol shortages, reduced availability of items at supermarkets and a backlog of products at ports such as Felixstowe. 

Last month, the government U-turned on its hardline immigration quotas and offered 5,000 three-month temporary visas to international drivers –but only a fraction have been taken up. 

In a bid to ensure there are no shortages of meat and poultry at Christmas, the government is also offering temporary working visas to overseas abattoir workers. The move came after farmers and food producers warned of mass culls of animals. 

These policy shifts come months into an ongoing crisis and after the prime minister and cabinet ministers had accused UK businesses of being “addicted” to overseas labour and told the sector to simply offer higher wages to UK workers.

While wages are increasing due to a labour shortage, it is also driving up price inflation. British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson warned yesterday that consumers would see prices increase on the majority of products by Christmas.

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