Scramble for foreign drivers and butchers to save Christmas and 10,000 pigs

The government is trying to head off shortages and price rises this winter (Picture: Getty/Reuters)

The government is once again scrambling to plug gaps in the economy with foreign labour.

Boris Johnson has repeatedly insisted he wants to find a domestic solution to staff shortages but two upcoming changes appear to concede that isn’t going to be possible.

Ministers are set to relax rules on EU drivers working in the UK to avoid empty shelves becoming the defining image of Christmas 2021.

At the same time, the government is set to issue 800 visas to butchers to prevent pigs being culled and wasted.

The changes come as a winter of crisis looms, with suppliers struggling to keep up with demand across the economy.

On the HGV changes, minister will rip up rules which dictate drivers from the EU can only make up to two trips between two places in the UK within one week.

Instead, foreign national drivers to make unlimited stops over a two-week period before they have to return to their country of origin.

The government has confirmed it is looking at the plans and says it is designed to ensure food supply chains don’t collapse.

Containers are stacking up at ports because there aren’t enough drivers to move goods around the country (Picture: PA)

If approved after the one-week consultation, the proposals would come into force before the end of the year and last for six months.

It’s the second time ministers have conceded foreign labour is going to play a pivotal role in keeping the economy moving this winter.

It was previously announced 5,000 temporary visas would be issued to overseas drivers after spending weeks rejecting industry calls to do just that.

Similarly, the government will turn to foreign butchers to try and prevent a mass cull of pigs in the coming weeks.

Thousands of pigs which have become too old and large to be processed for food have been killed and incinerated because there isn’t enough staff to carry out the work.

Environment secretary George Eustice has promised 800 temporary workers will be here next month.

Thousands of pigs destined to be processed for food could be simply killed and disposed off because there aren’t enough butchers to do the work (Picture: Getty)

But farmers warn the scheme is needed immediately to avoid 10,000 pigs being destroyed and incinerated every week.

Pig farmer Stephen Thompson from Yorkshire said: ‘We need something to happen this week.

‘We can’t have visas that come in next month then people apply the month after. We have one suicide a week in agriculture – I can see this making it far, far worse.’

And he warned the prime minister: ‘Don’t make jokes about it. Don’t go on the Andrew Marr show and make yourself look like an idiot. Just get on and sort it and do it now.’

Mr Eustice said yesterday: ‘We’re going to allow butchers in abattoirs and meat processors dealing with pigs to be able to come in on a temporary basis under the seasonal worker scheme.’

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