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Curry chefs divided over Brexit vote

By Sophie Witts , 03-Jun-2016
Last updated on 06-Jun-2016 at 11:02 GMT2016-06-06T11:02:17Z

Curry chefs divided over Brexit vote

The Brexit debate is hotting up among Britain’s curry houses, with a major industry group calling on chefs to vote ‘Remain’.

The Asian Catering Federation (ACF) – which represents 20,000 restaurant and takeaway owners – believes a vote to Leave would worsen the sector’s ongoing staffing crisis.

Around 600 UK curry houses have closed in the last 18 months due to a lack of skilled chefs.

The Vote Leave camp and the Bangladesh Caterers Association (BCA) are arguing that the EU’s freedom of movement rules have led to the Government introducing crippling limits on non-EU workers.

The minimum salary that a non-EU migrant has to earn has risen to £30,000, leaving many curry houses struggling for specialist staff.

But ACF chairman Yawar Khan believes that Brexit is not the answer.

He admitted that while the advantages of EU membership were ‘less obvious’ to small businesses, the industry would struggle without European workers.

“The ACF… recognises the contribution of EU members – especially those from Eastern Europe - who are prepared undertake the demanding work and anti-social hours associated with the hospitality industry,” said an ACF statement released to the press.

Khan is also calling on the Government to deliver the ‘level playing field’ promised by politicians ahead of the original referendum in 1974 by cutting tourism and alcohol tax.

“In the UK we impose more duty on a single bottle of wine than the French have on a 12-bottle case,” said Khan.

“In France the VAT on restaurant and hotel bills is half that of the UK.”

The ACF also believes that uncertainty during years of renegotiations following a ‘Leave’ vote would 'seriously' damage consumer confidence, hitting the hospitality sector especially hard.

Government action

The ACF has written to the Prime Minister requesting a personal meeting to discuss the problems faced by restaurateurs.

Oli Khan, senior vice president of the BCA, told BigHospitality last year that the Government needed to ‘take the initiative’ to save the nation’s curry houses.

“The chefs are the backbone of this industry, and if we don’t have them how are we going to run a business?” he said.

The BCA predicts that 10-15 curry restaurants will close a week if the industry's staffing crisis is left unresolved.

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