Another 'record high' for petrol - but how much more can Britain take?

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Petrol prices have already reached record peaks of 140p/litre amid tensions in the Middle East and with industry commentators predicting further spikes as UN coalition forces attack Libya, how much more can British motorists take?

In 2000 the country was brought almost to its knees by lorry drivers blockading key strategic points nationwide, and that over fuel prices that reached stratospheric heights of 80p a litre.

It seems motorists in 2011 have lost their fight, with the humble petition taking centre stage over direct action. But with prices look set to soar towards £1.50 a litre in the not-too-distant future, could that change?

AA spokesman Paul Watters says that if the fighting in North Africa is prolonged we could see a long-term increase in prices: "Libya has shaken the market and will probably continue to push the oil price up, but it is a volatile market.

The difference between now and the infamous blockades of 2000 seems to be that in 2011 the lorry companies can't even afford to go on strike.

Harry Lewis, who runs a haulage company based in Pembrokeshire, said: "The astronomical prices we are facing have come at a time when there isn't a lot of work about. Obviously we are all frightened to lose any work we have. We are being held over a barrel, whichever way we turn."

According to AA president Edmund King, drivers are already contributing 5p a litre more in fuel VAT in 2011: "If this continues, the Treasury will gain an extra £1.25bn over the year and maybe more if stock markets push oil prices higher. Surely, drivers are already paying their share towards filling the budget deficit, with some breaking under the strain on their own finances."

The first measure of what's ahead will be the Chancellor's Budget statement on Wednesday, where the entire country's motorists will be watching to see what pain is in store for the next 12 months.