British chief Minister Boris Johnson said he will not ease Brexit-related rules on immigration to address a without of truck drivers that has led to long lines at gas stations and fears retailers will be unable to stock the stores for the coming holiday season.
As he prepared for his ruling Conservative Party’s annual policy conference, Mr. Johnson insisted he was staying with the Brexit form to rebuild the U.K. economy and was not going back to the freer immigration policies of the past when Britain was part of the European Union.
Mr. Johnson rode to strength as a leading supporter of Brexit, but has been hammered in recent days by economic disruptions and new surveys showing Britons are less than happy with the results of the EU divorce.
But in an interview Sunday with the BBC, the chief minister described the current woes as essentially growing pains as employers learn to break away from a reliance on immigrant workers willing to work for lower wages.
“When people voted for change in 2016 and when people voted for change in 2019, they voted for the end of a broken form of the U.K. economy that relied on low wages and low skill, and chronic low productivity,” Mr. Johnson said. “And we’re moving away from that.”
“What we can’t do,” he additional, “is simply go back to the tired, failed old form, reach for the lever called uncontrolled immigration, get people in at low wages. And yes, there will be a period of adjustment, but that is, I think, what we need to see in this country.”
While acknowledging there was not a short-term fix, the chief minister said Britain’s trucking companies, like many other sectors of the economy, failed to make the necessary investments in training and higher pay at home when cheap migrant workers could be recruited.
Mr. Johnson hedged on whether he thought the trucker-related supply shortages could persist into the Christmas-buying season and also on whether taxes may need to be raised to finance the Conservative government’s agenda and raise an economy nevertheless struggling to put the COVID-19 pandemic behind it.
“I can tell you that you have no fiercer and more zealous opponent of unnecessary tax rises than me, but we have had to deal with a pandemic on a extent which this country has not seen before in our lifetimes and long before,” he said.
“We don’t want to raise taxes, of course we don’t, but what we will not do is be irresponsible with the public finances.”
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