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UK eases competition rules for fuel industry as petrol pumps run dry

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The UK government announced on Sunday evening that it is temporarily lifting competition rules for the fuel industry as thousands of petrol stations across the country ran dry.

The measure aims to make it easier for the industry “to share information so that they can more easily prioritise the delivery of fuel to the parts of the country and strategic locations that are most in need”, a statement from the government and key industry players including Shell, ExxonMobil and the UK Petroleum Industry Association, said.

“While there has always been and continues to be plenty of fuel at refineries and terminals, we are aware that there have been some issues with supply chains,” Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said.

“This is why we will enact the Downstream Oil protocol to ensure industry can share vital information and work together more effectively to ensure disruption is minimised,” he added.

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The move comes after the Petrol Retailers Association, which represents almost 5,500 independent outlets, said on Sunday that about two-thirds of its members were reporting that they had sold out their fuel, with the rest “partly dry and running out soon.”

Association chairman Brian Madderson said the shortages were the result of “panic buying, pure and simple.”

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“There is plenty of fuel in this country, but it is in the wrong place for the motorists,” he told the BBC.

Cars could be seen queuing down a busy road at a petrol station in Islington, North London on Sunday evening, as passers-by heard drivers shouting and swearing at each other.

The haulage industry says the UK is short tens of thousands of truckers, due to a perfect storm of factors including the coronavirus pandemic, an ageing workforce and an exodus of foreign workers following Britain’s Brexit departure from the European Union last year.

The government announced on Saturday that it will deliver 5,000 short-term visas to foreign lorry drivers in the lead-up to Christmas to ease supply chain issues. It also announced a scheme to quickly train 4,000 people to be lorry drivers, which will see examiners from the armed forces deployed to test them as quickly as possible.

British media also reported on Monday that the government could also deploy the army to deliver fuel across the country.

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