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Treasury minister branded ‘ridiculous’ after claiming HGV driver shortage nothing to do with Brexit – live

Simon Clarke, chief secretary to the Treasury, tells BBC: ‘The idea that this is somehow just a British problem is fundamentally wrong’

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Simon Clarke, the new chief secretary to the Treasury, was giving interviews on behalf of the government this morning and he insisted that Brexit had nothing to do with the shortage of HGV drivers in the UK that has contributed to petrol stations running out of exchange. He was speaking to Justin Webb on the Today programme, and here is the key exchange.

SC: The difficulties we are facing are not unique to this country. The idea that this is somehow just a British problem is fundamentally wrong. There’s a shortage of 400,000 HGV drivers across Europe.

We share that problem. It’s driven in part by workforce demographics, it’s worsened by Covid restrictions.

You cannot* simultaneously argue that Brexit has restricted firms’access to cheap EU labour and will therefore lead to better pay in certain sectors AND current labour shortages have nothing to do with restricting access to EU labour

* Actually you can, but you sound ridiculous

We want a high-wage, high-skills economy with controlled immigration; what they want is low wages, low skills, and uncontrolled immigration. That is what [Labour] stand for.

After a long period of stagnation in wages for those in the road haulage industry, we are also seeing a long-overdue increase in wages. That is part of the same phenomenon that this government are introducing and the Labour party is opposing.

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