Government ministers are believed to have launched urgent talks on a short-term visa scheme for foreign lorry drivers in a bid to prevent a shortage of staff.
There is an estimated shortfall of up to 100,000 truckers, delaying the deliveries of products including clothing and food. Now, officials at the Department for Transport (DfT) are in discussion with haulage industry chiefs on how they can tackle the crisis.
According to reports, transport leaders have recommended a temporary easing of immigration controls as a way of quickly solving the crisis. However, the Home Office has opposed relaxing controls, which were tightened following Britain’s departure from the EU when free movement ended.
Following the Home Office’s refusal, the DfT asked the industry for evidence to demonstrate the value of a temporary visa scheme. One person close to the discussion said: “Everyone involved is sworn to secrecy as the Home Office is taking a very hard line.
“The Home Office has the final decision on this and the DfT knows it has a very tough sell, so need the very best evidence.”
It is believed informal discussions have begun at the start of the month but talks could still fail if the Home Office continues to oppose relaxing controls. A source added: “There has been a subtle change of heart from Government. They know they need to explore how this can be solved.”