Boris Johnson told BBC Breakfast that 127 EU drivers have signed up to work in the UK as part of the new scheme – not 27, as previously reported.
But when asked about this embarrassingly low figure by BBC Breakfast’s Dan Walker, Johnson interrupted, and said it was actually 127 drivers.
Still, Walker pointed out: “Well if it’s 127, whatever it is, you wanted 300 and you wanted 4,700 by later this month.”
The prime minister confusingly then said, “you’re completely right – it’s 127”.
He continued: “It’s a fascinating illustration of the problem of the shortage.
“So, what we said to the road haulage industry was ‘Fine, give us the names of the drivers you want us to bring in and we will sort out the visas, we’ve got another 5,000 visas’.
“They only produced 127 names so far, and what that shows is the global shortage.
“There is a particular problem in the UK.
“Now road haulage should be a great job – if you invested in the truck stops, if you invested in the cabs, and in pay and conditions, it should be something that people want to do.”
Walker said: “People watching this morning will say this is related to Brexit.”
Johnson rebuffed such a claim and said HGV shortages extend to China and the US, countries not in the EU.
The prime minister continued: “The shortage is global. What you can’t do is go back to the old failed model, where the main line is low-skill low-wage labour.”
However, Johnson’s critics online were not convinced by his claims that there were 127 EU drivers looking to come to the UK.
According to Fortune journalist David Meyer, the business department confirmed “there have been 27 applications for those HGV driver visas” not 127.
People on Twitter joked that 27 in total means there has been just one driver from each EU country accepting the temporary visa.
Here’s a round-up of the most scathing responses to Johnson’s claims: