Fuel shortages exacerbate UK economic crisis

(Bloomberg) — For Will and Creidos Arnautis, the UK’s fuel crisis has rapidly evolved from a nuisance that derailed weekend plans to serious financial risks for their businesses.

Credos Arnautis, who with his brother runs a plumbing parts business, said it started with taxi fares soaring one night in London’s SoHo neighborhood, known for its pubs and clubs. After a few hours, it was a long wait to find enough fuel and bring his drunk friends home.

By Monday morning, the gasoline and diesel shortages were having a more concrete impact, with broader implications for the British economy.

“My delivery truck is almost out of stock,” said Will Arnautis, owner of Excel Plumbing and Heating Supplies in north London. “One of my employees is looking for fuel now.”

His company was already struggling to get supplies from abroad due to a lack of drivers, and the fuel crisis is making the problem worse.

“Two couriers who brought plumbing parts have already canceled this morning,” Arnaouts said. “Maybe I will have to cancel some deliveries this week, which will lead to financial problems.”

Important sectors in the UK, from food processing to utilities, were already suffering the effects of Brexit, the crisis in supply chains and a record increase in energy prices. Sudden disruption to road fuel supplies threatens to further impact the economy, leaving small businesses, caregivers and taxi drivers out of work.

What started last week as a limited problem affecting one company quickly turned into a national crisis.

On Thursday, BP said it had been forced to close many of the UK’s 1,200 gas stations and limit supplies to others because it did not have enough drivers for its delivery trucks. Government ministers went to television studios to say there was no shortage of fuel and that the shutdown affected only five locations, but their assurances had little effect as queues began to grow at pumps across the country.

Over the weekend, huge demand began emptying stations. Long lines of vehicles with drivers desperate to fill their tanks before supplies ran out blocked London’s busy motorways, and police intervened to control traffic or stop fights at gas stations.

The UK government, which has been criticized for not acting on time and allowing the supply chain crisis to escalate for months, has announced emergency measures and is considering bringing in army drivers to resume the flow of fuel, but business groups say the problem is unlikely to be resolved quickly.

There was no sign of improvement as the work week began with petrol stations closing across London. From Balham Hill in the south to Holloway Road in the north, gas stations covered pumps and put up signs saying there was no fuel. However, the vehicles continued to drive in vain to refuel.

At a police station in Southfields, southwest London, police were called to resolve a riot that occurred when a person on a motorbike attempted to cross a queue of more than 40 drivers, some of whom said they had been waiting for an hour. .

Companies that sell gasoline and diesel still do not know how to report a deadline for normalizing the situation. Meanwhile, those who rely on cars to get to work or run their businesses face heightened uncertainty.

After five years of political and economic dramas – including Brexit, the coronavirus pandemic and the global supply chain crisis – the impact in the UK is becoming increasingly visible.

At Cricks Corner Café in London’s Archway, manager Henry Coombes provided an example of the scale of the problems facing UK businesses and the resilience needed to survive.

“We were not able to deliver any cups during the days when the ship closed the Suez Canal,” Combs said. “But we are fine now. All our bread is delivered by bike.”

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