British authorities warned drivers of “serious disruption” on Monday as protesters seeking relief from high fuel costs used “go-slow” convoys to cause traffic jams on major UK motorways over a wide swath of territory.
Organized via social media under the banner of “Fuel Price Stand Against Tax,” rolling, slow-moving roadblocks of cars, trucks and tractors started their protests around 7am. According to The Guardian:
Motorways in the Bristol area, Devon, Cornwall, south Wales, Essex, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire were among those affected. Two tractors caused long tailbacks into Aberdeen by driving slowly side by side along the A92 northbound.
Police escorted some of the blockades, only to block them at their turnaround points and make arrests. The PA News Agency reports a dozen motorists were detained after blocking traffic across the Prince of Wales Bridge between South Wales and Somerset. The Telegraph reported the bridge was hardest hit in the protest, with traffic closed for more than an hour.
“The right to protest under UK law must be balanced with the rights of the wider community who may be affected,” said Gwent police chief superintendent Tom Harding. UK authorities say the protests threaten to impede the response of emergency services.
The price of petrol in the UK has surged to to a record 191.53 pence per liter, which equates to $8.78 a gallon — the highest among the five largest European economies.
The protesters are bent on achieving a cut in fuel taxes. None of their quoted rhetoric connects the dots between the price at the pump and Western sanctions against Russia. In March, the UK declared it will phase out Russian oil imports by December, as will the European Union.
Cox told The Independent the effort is largely driven by small business owners:
“People are at the end of their tether. This is hard-working, decent people who are fed up to their back teeth with the high cost of pump prices. Across Europe, diesel is on average 25p cheaper and petrol 20p cheaper than in the UK. Germany cut fuel tax by 26p, Spain by 20p and Ireland by 17p. Why can’t the Government do the same? They did 5p in the Spring Statement and it didn’t even touch the sides.”
That 5-pence tax cut came in March and is slated to last until March 2023. At the time, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak touted it as “the biggest cut to all fuel duty rates ever.” The 8.6% cut left the tax at 53 pence per liter.
UK: Protesters created a blockage against the rising cost of fuel. pic.twitter.com/Zm7kELLp2F
— 🅰🅻🅴🆁🆃 🅲🅷🅰🅽🅽🅴🅻 (@AlertChannel) July 4, 2022
Protester Vicky Stamper told The Guardian she and her partner quit their jobs because they couldn’t afford the commute. “It was costing us £380 [$460] a week just to get to and from work. I then lost a job two weeks ago because the company couldn’t afford to put fuel in that many lorries so last in, first out,” she said.
Protesters warned their next action might come in the form of a blockade on oil refineries. When previously employed in 2000 by farmers and truck drivers fighting taxes so high they represented 80% of the cost of gas, just one week of the tactic caused havoc, from huge lines at gas pumps to mail stoppages and grocery-rationing.
The Royal Automobile Club (RAC), akin to the American Automobile Club, told Bloomberg the rising price at the pump is inconsistent with a five-week drop in wholesale prices. “We would love to hear their reasoning for keeping their prices so high in this instance,” said RAC spokesman Simon Williams.
Some drivers on the M4 stepped out of their idle vehicles and took the opportunity to hone their soccer skills—or, football skills, if you like:
Top image: Police used spike strips to prevent a protest convoy from entering a freeway (Cameron Smith/Getty Images via Guardian)
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