Post-Brexit EU worker exodus hits restaurants and pubs

(left to right) ERG members Owen Paterson, Iain Duncan Smith, David Davis, Mark Francois and Steve Baker in Whitehall

(left to right) ERG members Owen Paterson, Iain Duncan Smith, David Davis, Mark Francois and Steve Baker in Whitehall - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Britain is facing a post-Brexit “exodus of EU waiters and baristas” with "prospective foreign workers are shunning the UK because of tighter visa rules and higher entry costs post-Brexit.”

It has been a gloomy week on the sunlit uplands of sovereign Britain, as reaction to the Line Of Duty finale reminds us of another long-running drama that its fans assured us would turn out brilliantly but ended up being a load of rubbish.

Who has done more harm - the OCG or the ERG? Let’s ask the hospitality industry as it attempts to fill 355,000 vacancies before indoor reopening on May 17 while being hampered by you-know-what.



The Brexit-backing Daily Mail calls it an “exodus of EU waiters and baristas”, while the yet-more-Brexity Sunday Telegraph solemnly reports that “a significant number of Eastern Europeans who pulled pints or waited tables in the UK have returned to their home country… Meanwhile, prospective foreign workers are shunning the UK because of tighter visa rules and higher entry costs post-Brexit.”

Michael Gratz, who owns a barbecue restaurant in west London, told The Times: “We’ve been trying to hire chefs for the past two months but haven’t had any luck. Brexit has crushed the hospitality labour market.”

Jeremy King, co-founder of restaurant group Corbin & King, told the i: “Nobody quite realised how many people we had from Europe. They headed home and some don’t want to come back, and who can blame them? Others who do can’t get back.

“I heard of one restaurateur who hired a new Spanish chef but he was turned away at Heathrow.” 

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Martin Williams, head of a restaurant group that owns the Gaucho Grill chain, told The Guardian, “We are definitely seeing the European workforce not return.” He is backed up by statistics that show that 34.9% of new starters in the hospitality sector in the first quarter of 2021 came from the EU, compared with 48.6% in the first quarter of 2019.

And Peter Borg-neal, chairman of pub chain Oakman Inns, moaned to the Sunday Telegraph: “You can’t get new people anymore… We have been reliant in the past on the EU and there appears to be quite a gap.”

But how to fill the gaps when Brits plainly won’t or can’t do some of the jobs, when the anticipated arrival of new restaurant workers places from Kenya haven’t happened because of Covid red-listing and when the costs of tempting EU nationals back now include not just flights but £1,476 for a sponsor license, £199 for a certificate of sponsorship, £1,000 for the new Immigration Skills Charge and gawd knows how much for a lawyer to sort it all out?

We have plenty of roles to fill but no lines of people reporting for duty. It’s is a problem not even Chloe from AC-12 could solve…

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