‘No thank you, prime minister’: Lorry drivers decline Johnson’s Christmas visa offer

Boris Johnson‘s proposed three-month working visa for European truckers is not proving a popular prospect for some European lorry drivers. On Sunday the government announced a plan to issue temporary visas for 5,000 foreign truck drivers as a response to the acute shortfall of truck drivers that has caused fuel pumps to run dry and massive queues at forecourts across the country. However the visa only lasts until 24 December, which Jakub Pajka – a Polish truck driver who quit his job in the UK after Brexit – said was not long enough to be worthwhile.

Speaking from behind the wheel of his red lorry in Poland’s capital Warsaw, he said: “No thank you, Mr Prime Minister, I will not take advantage of this opportunity. No drivers want to move for only three months just to make it easier for the British to organise their holidays.” The additional money couldn’t offset the struggle of moving countries, the threat posed by migrants trying to cross the English Channel on the back of a truck or the separation from his family, he added.

“The money you can earn in the UK does not compensate such driver for all the dangerous things that happen to him there,” he said pointing to the scuffles with migrants he witnessed in ports of Calais and Dunkirk. On a different parking lot outside of Warsaw, Jacek Rembikowski, a 60-year old truck driver with 25 years of experience, also said Brexit somewhat influenced his decision to return home after working in Britain for seven years. Despite his thirst for adventure, and his fond memories driving from “Norway to Portugal”, he said he now preferred to stay in Poland.

“(There was) an uncertainty as to how we will be treated in this situation,” he said. “Whether Brexit will shake up not only the industry but also whether drivers will still be wanted.”

Imran Mustafa moved to Barcelona from Pakistan eight years ago and has been a haulage driver for three years. He said the UK visa offer was too short and that it was not enough time to get to know the UK road network. He said: “It’s a temporary visa and it’s for a very small time period.

“These days, people don’t have the money to travel. No-one wants to travel for just three months. “I could move as I live on my own but other people, French people, German people, Spanish people, they’re already earning a lot of money, so why would they move to the UK for three months only on a temporary visa?

“I would move but not for three months. It’s not enough time as we don’t know the roads, the maps or how it all works. I think it will create a lot of problems or accidents.”

Additional reporting by agencies