Boris Johnson has been sunning himself in Marbella but he is set for a case of the holiday blues as he returns to Downing Street
Boris Johnson has finally returned to the UK after his Spanish holiday in a luxury hideaway owned by a Tory peer.
The Prime Minister enjoyed balmy weather on his family getaway but back home the outlook is far bleaker.
Brits are being clobbered by cuts to Universal Credit and rising energy bills, and the shortage of lorry drivers continues to wreak havoc on supply chains.
Retailers have warned of Christmas shortages, while efforts to recruit new drivers to ease the pressure appear to have stalled.
Meanwhile, there’s Brexit turmoil for the PM to contend with as the EU and the UK enter a fresh bout of negotiations.
We look at the problems piling up while Boris Johnson was on his sun lounger.
Thousands of Covid deaths could have been prevented – report
A devastating report by MPs on the Commons Health and Science committees laid bare how Covid failings cost thousands of lives.
MPs branded the Government’s handling of the pandemic “one of the most important public health failures” the UK has ever seen.
Experts told the committee that the 40,000 death toll could have been halved if the PM had imposed lockdown just seven days earlier in March 2020.
The MPs tore apart the Government’s response in a grim 150-page report, including the bungled Test and Trace scheme and the decision to discharge patients into care homes without testing.
It found ministers made a “serious error” by taking a “gradual and incremental” approach to lockdowns last year.
Families who lost loved ones expressed fury at the “cowardly” PM who was on holiday as the report was published.
Fears mount over supplies for Christmas
Brits have faced shortages of fuel and food sparked by shortages of HGV drivers to transport goods and workers in key sectors such as the meat industry.
Covid restrictions and poor weather have also affected shipping in China and east Asia, which has had knock-on impacts worldwide.
Retailers have warned that there could be shortages in the run up to the busy festive period, prompting fears of a fresh surge of panic buying.
Container logjams at UK ports, such as Felixstowe, in Suffolk, have also caused supply chain issues.
The army had to be drafted in to ease the problems at petrol stations as the lack of lorry drivers meant fuel couldn’t get to the pumps.
Government figures show average stock levels sank to 15% on September 25 after two days of panic buying – compared to the average of 43% in early 2020.
AFP via Getty Images)
Only 20 temporary visas granted for HGV drivers
The Government vowed to issue 5,000 temporary visas to HGV drivers and another 5,500 to poultry workers to prevent Christmas shortages.
However Tory chairman Oliver Dowden admitted only 20 visas had actually been issued and there had been just 300 applicants.
Home Office Minister Kevin Foster told MPs in a letter that the application process takes a minimum of three weeks – meaning drivers applying now are being drafted in for only two months.
This means that poultry workers, who can only stay until 31 December, will only be able to stay in the country for around two months if they apply now.
Up to 800 temporary visas are also being extended to foreign butchers to ease labour shortages and prevent mass slaughter pigs due to backlogs in meat processing.
Squabbling ministers row over energy crisis
A row broke out at the top of Government this week over support for heavy industry struggling with surging energy costs
Soaring wholesale gas prices have heaped pressure on sectors such as steel, paper and ceramics which use a lot of energy to create their products.
Industry leaders have pleaded with the Government for support to avoid shutting down factories, which would have a knock on effect on jobs and consumers.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng was slapped down by the Treasury when he claimed talks were ongoing over how to support firms.
A Treasury source insisted there were no discussions going on – and accused him of making it up.
But it appears that the PM is sympathetic to Mr Kwarteng rather than Chancellor Rishi Sunak, and a package of support is said to be being hammered out behind closed doors.
Universal credit cut begins to bite
Cuts to Universal Credit have begun to hit hard-pressed families after the Tories axed the £20-a-week uplift to the lifeline benefit.
The temporary £1,040-a-year increase was brought to help people struggling during the pandemic.
The Government resisted calls from campaigners, charities and their own MPs to keep the uplift, with the cut coming into force on the same day Boris Johnson gave his Tory conference speech.
Many people claiming Universal Credit are in work but their wages are so low they need the extra £20 just to survive.
It comes on top of a looming hike to National Insurance imposed by Chancellor Rishi Sunak – and more than a decade of austerity.
New Brexit tensions as UK tries to tear apart PM’s deal
The PM won the 2019 election with a manifesto commitment to “Get Brexit Done” but the saga is still rumbling on nearly two years later.
While Mr Johnson was slapping on the suncream, his Brexit envoy Lord Frost was ramping up pressure on the EU to rip apart the deal that the PM signed last year.
The Tory peer admitted that the PM only signed the pact to get Brexit done – and Mr Johnson’s former aide Dominic Cummings also said that No10 had always planned to unpick it once they had won the election.
Tension centres on the Northern Ireland Protocol, which was created to protect the peace process by avoiding a land border on the island of Ireland.
But Irish Sea regulatory and customs checks have caused delays and frustration for businesses.
The EU has offered to slash 80% of red tape on goods entering Northern Ireland to ease obstructions to trade caused by the Brexit pact.
But the bloc is refusing to budge on British demands to remove the European Court of Justice’s role overseeing the Northern Ireland protocol – setting the stage for a fresh Brexit standoff.