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Brexit adds to woes of crisis hit UK curry restaurants


economy

Brexit adds to woes of crisis hit UK curry restaurants

Britain is suffering a curry crisis, with an average of two curry restaurants a week closing.

Along with rising rents and more expensive food, a lack of chefs is a big part of the problem as the younger generations of family owned establishments seek easier and better paid work.

But restaurant owners also say they feel betrayed over promises made during the campaign to leave the European Union.

Many of them backed Brexit having been assured it would mean more work visas for South Asian cooks.

Chef Oli Khan”:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oli_Khan_FRSA, who is also Senior Vice President of the Bangladesh Caterers Association UK, explained: “They’ve actually promised us they said that, you know, ‘if you support the Brexit, then we will make sure that we’ll get a lot of people from South Asia’ and that is not happening actually.”

No change for non-EU migrants

While leaving the European Union will allow Britain to limit European immigration for the first time in 40 years, the government has so far refused to relax the rules for migrants from non-EU countries.

The government also refuses to discuss any changes, arguing it would hurt its negotiating position.

The current rules require migrants from outside the EU to have a job paying at least 35,000 pounds (40,300 euros) a year, way more than workers in curry restaurants normally earn.

No eastern promise

Brexit is likely to make things worse by cutting off the flow of eastern European workers who have increasingly filled the gaps in recent years.

Enam Ali, owner of the Le Raj restaurant in Epsom, north of London, is worried: “The British curry industry has wholeheartedly supported Brexit because we feel it would be a fair policy and we can bring people from outside the EU, from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan where people can come and look after our business because the industry needs chefs desperately.”

But he says the exact opposite is happening: “Because the people we are currently working with, the European workers – Romanian and Polish – they are now going to leave so what we end up with is nobody to work for us. So we will be really closing our restaurants.”

Should I stay?

Front of house and in the kitchens, between 5,000 and 6,000 curry house workers are East Europeans out of a total of 150,000 in Britain.

Aga Pozniak, who is a qualified teacher, came to the UK from Lodz in central Poland. She worked first as a kitchen assistant and now is a server: “The situation is not really clear so we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future and what the government negotiations outcome will be. So now, most people who came here, especially not long ago like me for example, are thinking ‘okay should I stay? Should I invest in myself here or maybe should I go back? Maybe I should go somewhere else because I don’t really want to return to my home country.”

Wider threat

It is a problem that extends throughout Britain’s restaurants and hotels.

The British Hospitality Association is warning many will close for lack of staff unless the government allows EU migrants to continue to work in low-skilled jobs after Britain leaves.

The sandwich chain Pret a Manger recently said that just one in 50 applicants for jobs at the company were British.

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