Britain’s Curry Industry And Brexit No Longer Have A Hot Future

Oli Khan, FRSA; Chef, Commentator; Secretary General of the Bangladesh Caterers Association Friday 12th April 2019 09:36 EDT
Oli Khan, FRSA; Chef, Commentator; Secretary General of the Bangladesh Caterers Association

The country has been a deeply divided nation since the 2016 referendum. The effects of Brexit, large or small, can be felt in almost every industry in the UK. We have heard repeatedly about the large businesses who have decided to relocate from the UK because of the uncertainty, but what will Brexit mean to the small businesses on our high-streets, particularly the ethnic food industry, to which I belong, who do not have theluxury to move because we are rooted in communities?!


For the British curry industry; Brexit was pitched as a lifeline, providing hope that changes to immigration laws may boost access to the highly skilled chefs that we desperately need. Almost two decades after chicken tikka masala was announced as Britain’s national dish, pro-Leave politicians promised restaurants greater arrivals We were sold the idea that immigrants from the commonwealth would be given priority over those from the EU, giving us access to the much needed talent we wanted, from areas where it is abundant. 


However, recent news reveals that the promises made to secure the ‘Leave’ vote from those with a vested interest in the industry will not be fulfilled. Brexit is betraying the hopes of many who campaigned for it.


Politics aside, the Brexit discussions shines a light on a pre-existing issue that could see the collapse of an industry worth over £4bn, unless we can adapt quickly. As now an increasing number of our  second generation do not want to work in the family run business. This has put a pressure on curry house owners, where nine out of ten, who like me, are British Bangladesh. We now have to go and look for cooking talent from our home country. However, the government policies such as a £2,000 fee on importing skilled labour and a salary cap of less than £30k have been a big setback for our ; an amount, out of reach for most small restaurants.


Now our much needed chefs are in short supply. The industry, which contributes $5.5 billion to the British economy a year, is struggling to find the additional 30,000 additional workers it needs. Consequently, it is estimated that three to four curry restaurants are closing weekly across the UK. The government needs to remember that our curry houses and takeaways are a British institution. Every town has, at least one curry restaurant. We are integral to local communities and high-streets, where we generate an income that feeds into the local economies. If we disappear, communities and high-streets will feel the loss.

Losing a large part of the UK’s catering workforce will have a detrimental effect on the industry itself and our national economy. The UK has a reputation of being a culinary capital, which is reliant on foreign restaurant investors and chefs being able to easily bring their ideas to this country. We are now on the brink of losing this legacy. 

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