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British curry industry ‘dying’ because of Brexit and staff shortages, leading restaurateurs warn

Fewer customers and higher costs have dealt a major body blow to curry houses across the country

Wednesday 26 December 2018 14:58 GMT
British curry industry ‘dying’ because of Brexit and staff shortages, leading restaurateurs warn

The British curry industry is “dying” because of Brexit and staff shortages, leading restaurateurs have warned.

The fall in the value of sterling since Britain voted to leave the European Union has drastically increased the costs of running curry houses across the country, with some restaurants claiming business is down 75 per cent since 2016, dealing a major body blow to the £4bn industry.

The Bangladesh Caterers Association (BCA), which represents 12,000 British-Bangladeshi restaurants and takeaways across the country, expressed their concerns that the detrimental impact of Brexit, which the group backed, was a major worry.

Mujibur Rahman Junue, deputy secretary of the BCA, told The Independent: “The prices of ingredients have gone up but we can survive with increased prices if we have staff. Our main concern is not having staff available.”

Current rules state that to bring a chef from south Asia, an employer must provide a salary of £30,000 to secure a visa, a figure that is far higher than the average curry house chef’s pay.

Mr Junue continued: “At the moment the industry is dying due to staff shortages. The next generation are not coming into this business, so if we do not get skilled workers from abroad you will not see Indian restaurants on the UK streets. We can’t get staff from the UK because people just don’t want to do it.”

He said a 2013 scheme to train homegrown chefs barely had any applicants, forcing the plans to be halted.

He added that in the run up to the Brexit referendum the BCA met with senior politicians who they claim gave assurances that the immigration rules would be changed if they supported Brexit.

“We supported Brexit because we were promised we would be allowed to bring our skilled workers from the subcontinent,” Mr Junue said.

“Prior to the referendum we were promised by Boris Johnson, Priti Patel and Michael Gove that if we came out of Europe that it is likely they will be open for people from the sub-continent to come.”

Redoan Pasha, who owns Taste of India in Euston, London, said not only were staffing issues a concern but Brexit had resulted in fewer customers and higher prices for ingredients.

He noted that certain imports had to be made from the EU and they had vastly increased in price since the referendum.

“Brexit is a disaster for the curry industry. Two years ago we thought it would be good but it certainly has not been,” Mr Pasha told The Independent.

“We have already lost 75 per cent of our business in total.”

The concerns about Brexit have led to many in the industry to say they feel “cheated” by Brexit.

Kishan Devani, the vice-president of the Liberal Democrats campaign for race equality, said restaurateurs believe they had been misled and are now suffering the consequences.

He said: “Leading Brexiteers like Boris Johnson and Priti Patel went to the curry industry and said, ‘This is your opportunity. If we come out of the European Union, then where do we have to go—the Commonwealth countries, it will solve your problems.’ Well what a lot of rubbish that has turned out to be.”

The Independent has contacted Mr Johnson, Ms Patel and Mr Gove for comment.

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