“We are experiencing some supply problems,” a spokesman for pub chain Wetherspoons said Tuesday, apologizing for any inconvenience caused to customers.
The lack of beer has been attributed to the ongoing shortage of truck drivers to transport goods, a problem sparked by Britain’s decision to leave the European Union following a 2016 referendum that divided the country.
The driver shortage has not been helped by the country’s “pingdemic,” in which tens of thousands of workers were forced to self-isolate after being contacted by the National Health Service app for coming into contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus. Others stayed home to heed government requirements after experiencing covid-19 symptoms or being exposed to the virus.
The Guardian reported this week that warehouses had reported their lowest levels of stock since records were begun and that major supermarket chains were grappling with delivery delays, staff shortages and empty shelves. Meanwhile, the trucking industry estimated that there’s now a shortage of more than 100,000 drivers in the country.
In July, the government said drivers would be exempt from its sweeping self-isolation guidance as long as they could test for the coronavirus daily. Yet the trucking industry has said that new or would-be recruits couldn’t start driving since some tests had been delayed, the BBC reported.
Britain’s self-isolation guidance has heavily disrupted the economy, with some businesses, including pubs, forced to close their doors again because of decreasing worker numbers. The closures came after more than a year of nationwide lockdowns in a bid to beat back the coronavirus, which has claimed more than 130,000 lives in Britain.
Yet experts have warned since Brexit that fallout from the deal could lead to shortages of imported goods, higher prices and a weakening economy in the United Kingdom.
British businessman Tim Martin, who founded Wetherspoons, has long championed Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.
According to Britain’s logistics industry, Brexit and the pandemic led to over 14,000 European truck drivers leaving the country. Only 600 drivers have since returned to the country, according to British media, which has led to a significant increase in delayed goods.
Experts say the trucking industry has long faced questions over how it would retain workers forced to work long shifts for low wages, with limited access to bathrooms.
In the past, some Brits have not adjusted well to shortages. In 2018, fast-food restaurant KFC reported that it was running out of one of its key ingredients, leading some concerned Brits to go as far as calling the police in a bid to report the significant lack of fried chicken.
“It is not a police matter if your favourite eatery is not serving the menu that you desire,” the police department said in a tweet at the time.
This summer, fast-food chain Nando’s announced that at least 50 stores across Britain would be closing because of a lack of chicken supplies that it attributed to low staff numbers and delivery issues.
“The UK food industry has been experiencing disruption across its supply chain ... due to staff shortages and a number of our restaurants have been impacted,” the chain famous for its peri peri sauces said in an August statement.
According to the British Poultry Council, staff shortages are widespread partly because of Brexit, which caused chicken production to drop by about 10 percent, CNN reported.
With Christmas now just months away, supermarkets are warning that the situation could become direr.
Steve Murrells, the chief executive of the Co-operative Group, a retail and wholesale operation, told Metro UK that shortages are at a “worse level” than he has ever seen before. Richard Walker, the managing director of the supermarket Iceland, told the outlet that a “strong supply chain is vital for everyone,” especially in the months leading to Christmas.
Tesco, a popular grocery chain, also announced that it was running low on truck drivers as businesses in the food and hospitality industries attempt to lure new staff.