Top chefs ‘refusing to move to London because of Brexit’
The British Hospitality Association says restaurants have been unable to hire leading chefs from France and Italy – with some forced to shelve opening plans.
London is struggling to attract the world’s best chefs because of Brexit, the Government has been warned.
The British Hospitality Association (BHA) says EU withdrawal is already making it impossible for restaurants to hire leading chefs from the likes of France and Italy, threatening the capital’s crown as the “gastronomy capital of the world”.
Some owners have been forced to delay or abandon plans to open new restaurants, said the organisation that represents 46,000 hospitality and tourism businesses.
Chief executive Ufi Ibrahim blamed the “uncertainty” surrounding the future rights of EU citizens in the UK – as well as a belief that people from the rest of Europe are now “unwelcome and unwanted”.
She also criticised the tone of government statements, warning they put at risk Britain’s “hard-earned and long-standing impression that we are a hospitable and welcoming nation”.
Ms Ibrahim said: “Many people from the EU are now questioning that, if they do come to the UK – and they change their lives, or if they move with their family – they are not sure how long that would be for.
“There’s a level of uncertainty that they might have to go back within some months that’s putting some people off.
“There is a feeling of being unwelcome and unwanted. That is having an impact on, for example, on top chefs from France and from Italy. It is becoming more difficult to attract that level of individual to come.
“That is a shame, particularly in areas like London, where we have become the gastronomy capital of the world and it’s becoming that bit harder to attract the people we need from EU countries.”
Ms Ibrahim said the BHA knew of specific examples of restaurants that had been unable to open, adding: “It’s affected new investment decisions.”
And, on Britain’s reputation as a “welcoming nation”, she said: “We are very concerned about the tonality of statements and messages going out from Government.”
The comments follow Theresa May’s refusal to guarantee the rights of three million EU citizens after Brexit, insisting she will not act until British ex-pats’ rights are protected in return.
Last year, Home Secretary Amber Rudd was forced to abandon plans to make businesses reveal how many foreign staff they employ, following widespread condemnation.
In January, Robert Goodwill, the immigration minister, floated a proposal for a £1,000-a-year levy on every EU skilled worker recruited by British employers after Brexit.
Meanwhile, Britain’s national tourism agency has raised the alarm over a separate threat posed by Brexit, highlighting tougher visa rules and the possible loss of the “open skies” scheme.
Since 1994, the scheme has allowed any EU airline to fly between any two points in Europe, spurring the rise of budget airlines and slashing airfares.
Sally Balcombe, chief executive of VisitBritain, said the country’s success as a tourist destination would only continue if visitors still “find it easy to come”.
We are asking them to come with caravans and bikes. This is not hassle free – we need to make it easy for them to come, so access under the same conditions as now or as close to them is essential,” Ms Balcombe said.
“We need to keep the open skies, because remember we are an island – 73 per cent of people get here on a plane.
“If we don’t have open aviation, these numbers won’t continue to happen.”
Both organisations have given evidence to the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, which is carrying out an inquiry into the impact of Brexit on tourism