Major industries in the UK, from food processing to utilities, were already suffering the effects of Brexit, the supply chain crisis and record-high energy prices. A sudden interruption of highway fuel supplies threatens to spread this pain deeper into the economy, leaving small businesses, care workers and taxi drivers unable to do their jobs.
What started last week as a limited problem plaguing one company quickly turned into a national crisis.
On Thursday, BP Plc said it had to close a handful of its 1,200 service stations in the UK and restrict supply to others because it did not have enough drivers for its delivery trucks. Government ministers toured television studios to say there was no fuel shortage and the shutdown only affected five locations, but their guarantees had little effect as lines began to grow at pumps across the country.
By the end of the week, the increase in shopping began to empty gas stations. Long lines of vehicles desperate to fill their tanks before supplies ran out have blocked busy London roads and police intervened to control traffic or stop fights at petrol pumps.
The UK government, facing criticism for leaving behind and leaving the supply chain crisis festering for months, has announced some emergency measures and is considering bringing in army drivers to get fuel flowing again, but business groups say the crisis is unlikely to be resolved. quickly.
There were no signs of improvement as the work week began on Monday, with gas stations closed at all compass points in London. From Pelham Hill in the south to Holloway Road in the north, gas stations have covered their pumps and put up signs saying there is no fuel available.
Companies that sell gasoline and diesel do their best to give clear deadlines for when the situation will return to normal. Meanwhile, people who depend on cars to get to their jobs or run their businesses face heightened uncertainty.
For London Mayor Sadiq Khan, the priority has been to secure a supply of fuel for the people who keep the city running: hospital workers, home caregivers and taxi drivers.
After half a decade of swinging from one political and economic drama to the next, from Brexit to the coronavirus pandemic to the global supply chain crisis, the cost to the country is becoming increasingly clear.
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