Restaurant leaders call for People’s Vote as Brexit is “the most important thing to happen to our industry in living memory”

By Stefan Chomka contact

- Last updated on GMT

Restaurant leaders call for People’s Vote as Brexit is “the most important thing to happen to our industry in living memory”

Related tags: brexit, Hospitality, Fergus henderson, Mark hix, Rick stein, Gary usher

A group of leading restaurant figures, including Trevor Gulliver, Fergus Henderson, Mark Hix, Jeremy King, Ruth Rogers, Rick Stein, Paul Moran and Gary Usher are calling for support for a People’s Vote.

A letter addressed at industry colleagues signed by more than 15 prominent food and drink industry leaders is asking for people within hospitality to write to their local MP and outline the damage to their local restaurants and hotels created by either a hard or soft Brexit.

The letter outlines the importance of foreign talent in the hospitality sector and the threat that restricting the movement of people post Brexit would have on the industry. It states: ‘The last few decades has seen this country’s restaurants, hotels and wine importing businesses thrive as the UK has become one of the best places to eat and drink in the world. We have done this by attracting to our industry a winning mixture of British and foreign talent.

'The threat posed by barriers slamming down after Brexit on the huge pool of European talent upon which our industry relies cannot be underestimated.’
 
The letter goes on to state that the industry needs to be more active in making the case to retain freedom of movement and calls for a second referendum in order to make the case for a continued closer links with the European Union. ‘If we don’t, our industry will suffer,’ it states.

“There are a lot of industry who are less fragmented than hospitality that are working together on the various issues that Brexit brings up,” says David Gleave, managing director at Liberty Wines, who created the letter. “As yet, hospitality hasn’t worked together on these issues. But I don’t know any restaurant that doesn’t have problems finding staff - we need to work together and write to our MPs to show how important tha issue of staffing is.”

Gleave says that the letter is not about proposing a solution but about starting a debate about Brexit to which the hospitality sector can contribute.

“We need to debate the issue of free movement, otherwise Brexit presents a deal in which we’ve had no input. Unless we have input we could find ourselves in real bother in terms of staff levels.

“We’ve got a great and burgeoning industry but it is at risk of real damage. Debate is required rather than the slow march to whatever decision is being imposed on us.”

Still time for change

Trevor Gulliver, who is on the restaurant committee for UKHospitality, says it is important that the industry has a voice in the Brexit decision-making process, saying Brexit is “the most fundamental and important thing to happen to our industry in living memory”.

“It is about getting the best deal rather than doing something that is just foolish.”

He refutes the notion that the industry has been too late to come together to affect change, and is calling on everyone in the hospitality sector to act. “Nothing is done until it’s done - everything can be stopped and tailored to a satisfactory conclusion, because the truth is our business is in dire trouble.

Gulliver is calling on the retention of the freedom of movement and for the UK to stay with the EU Customs Union. “If Brexit was to happen we need freedom of movement and we want to stay within the trading group. It will fundamentally hurt us if we do not. The truth is people will go out of business. The great thing about freedom of movement is that people come, now they are not coming. the tap’s been turned off.”

“As soon as we come out of the trading deal it will be a nightmare in terms of logistics and paperwork and prices will go up. And as soon a we stop free movement we will be hurting - the quality and diversity of food in this country will disappear.”

The letter in full:

DEAR INDUSTRY COLLEAGUES,

We are writing to ask for your support for the campaign for a People’s Vote.

Why?  The last few decades have seen this country’s restaurants, hotels and wine importing businesses thrive as the UK has become one of the best places to eat and drink in the world.  We have done this by attracting to our industry a winning mixture of British and foreign talent.

The threat posed by barriers slamming down after Brexit on the huge pool of European talent upon which our industry relies cannot be underestimated.

We feel strongly that we need to be more active in making the case to retain freedom of movement.

Britain, with record high levels of employment, is just not producing enough people to fill all the roles available in our flourishing businesses.  We’re not convinced that the Government has given the retention of freedom of movement sufficient importance in negotiations, so we need another referendum in order to make the case for a continued closer link with the European Union.  If we don’t, our industry will suffer.

If you agree, we would ask that you write to your local MP to explain to them the damage that could be done to their local restaurants and hotels by a hard or soft Brexit.

If you are not sure who your local MP is, or if you don’t know where to find their contact details, they are easily found at https://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/.  

Be sure to include your home address in your email or letter to demonstrate that you live in your MP’s constituency.  

MPs will only ACT if we can combine to raise awareness of this issue.

Your sincerely,

The full list of co-signers:

Philip Contini, executive chairman, Valvona & Crolla
Nigel Foster, director, Camino
David Gleave, managing director, Liberty Wines
Trevor Gulliver, CEO, St. John Group
Fergus Henderson, St John Restaurant
Mark Hix, CEO, Hix Restaurants
Robin Hutson, chairman and CEO of LimeWood Group  and Home Grown Hotels
Dan Jago, Chairman, Wine and Spirit Trade Association
Jeremy King, CEO, Corbin & King Limited
Jon Knight, CEO, Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group
Will Lander, co-owner, Woodhead Restaurant Group
Paul Moran, managing director, Living Ventures
Russell Norman, founder, Polpo
Ruth Rogers, co-founder, The River Café
Rick Stein, founder, The Seafood Restaurant
Mitch Tonks, CEO, Rockfish Group
Gary Usher, founder, Elite Bistro’s

Related topics: Legislation

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