Oil prices stoke fears over new arctic freeze

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Britain will be engulfed by a second Arctic freeze over the weekend, stoking fears that thousands of homes could be without heating and mountains of presents could go undelivered over the Christmas period.

Heavy snow storms will blast nearly every part of the UK at some point on Saturday and Sunday, with plummeting temperatures struggling to climb above freezing, forecasters said.

Rocketing oil prices and restricted deliveries have already left families without fuel and the Government has warned the situation could become "very serious" if the cold weather persists.

A backlog of around four million parcels could grow during the predicted cold snap, as private carriers struggle to overcome delays caused by the first spell of snow and ice.

Heavy snow returned to northern Scotland and Northern Ireland overnight with parts of Wales and south-west England also being affected.

Icy blizzards and temperatures as low as -6C caused major disruption on transport networks with police in the Scottish Highlands warning commuters not to travel. A section of the M2 in Northern Ireland was also closed due to heavy snow.

The Met Office today issued heavy snow warnings for northern Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and south-west England. Widespread ice was also expected in most parts of the UK during the rush hour.

Christmas deliveries have been hit hard with a number of internet retailers stopping deliveries in Scotland. Industry insiders said it could be the first year in which depots and offices do not clear all their gifts.