Britain’s £4 billion curry industry, which largely backed Brexit, says that it feels “angry” and “betrayed” by politicians in the wake of the vote.
Businesses serving up some of the country’s favourite dishes, including “national dish” Chicken Tikka Masala, are worried about the post-Brexit clampdown on immigration, as they are already struggling to hire chefs, according to the Financial Times.
Currently it costs nearly £30,000 for a UK restaurant owner to pay for a visa for a chef from the subcontinent — most come from India and Bangladesh — and many believed that leaving the European Union would spell an end to the expensive system, with a new “points-style” immigration system which would boost immigration from the sub-continent.
A points-based system would select migrants on the basis of their contribution to society, and would be determined by the government setting out annual quotas for different types of skills and work. Brexit campaign group Vote Leave sent out leaflets suggesting that such a system would boost immigration from Asian communities, arguing that it would end the free movement of migrants from Eastern Europe, and be less discriminate to countries outside the EU.
However, Prime Minister Theresa May has already ruled out a points-style system, as she believes it would increase immigration levels, and her Home Secretary Amber Rudd has since said that she intends to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands.
Pasha Khandaker, president of the Bangladesh Caterers Association, campaigned vocally for the Leave vote and told the Financial Times that he was “very disappointed” by the government ruling out a points-style immigration system.
He said: “I am very disappointed, when Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Priti Patel, prominent figures from the governing party, they were clearly saying that they would introduce a points-based system of immigration.”
“My organisation supported Brexit for several reasons but the main reason was to bring people from abroad to help our industry to survive,” he said, adding that British workers were largely unwilling to work the night-time shifts required in a curry house.
His organisation is now worried about mass restaurant closures if May’s new immigration policy makes it more difficult to hire chefs.
Chris Parsons, chair of the India practice at law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, said that it would be “politically … rather difficult for Theresa May and the rest of the government to say we’re closing European immigration down but we want to encourage lots of Chinese and Indians to come in.”
Barry Gardiner, Labour’s shadow trade secretary, said that the idea that Brexit would boost immigration from India was a “pack of lies” told by Brexit campaigners. He said: “There is a real sense of anger in India about this, they remember what was said before the referendum and were surprised by ministers’ anti-immigration rhetoric at the Tory conference.”