By Denis Sheehan, Publisher, H&C News: Rwanda policy reinforcing Brexit’s damage to hospitality.
London for many years was widely acknowledged as one of if not the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, a status that drove many economic benefits not least the desire of businesses and people from around the world to live and work there.
This enviable status was never more visible than through the eyes of diners, offered menus that encapsulated much of the rich tapestry of food from around the world.
This position of economic power was built up over many decades through immigration.
Following the end of the second world war the UK encouraged immigration from Commonwealth countries. This was a request for help to rebuild the country due to acute people and skills shortages at the time.
Through the 1950s European, Asian, and African communities as well as others, came to the UK, settled, and set up hospitality businesses.
The 1960s saw a rise in eating out and a more adventurous appetite for new menu items. Wimpey bars sold American hamburgers, Italian coffee bars served espressos, and French restaurants introduced Chateaubriand.
As the range of diverse cuisines available increased so did the accolades, London became one of the most respected dining destinations in the world. Countless other cities and towns also benefited, who would know of Bray if it weren’t for the Waterside Inn?
These examples and many more are testimony to how embracing people of diverse nationalities significantly enhanced the UK economy and culture, and are historical facts.
This changed in 2016 as the Brexit referendum result led to the withdrawal of the UK from the EU at 23:00 GMT on 31 January 2020.
Today we see circa 150-200,000 vacancies in hospitality.
Many hospitality venues are now only able to operate on partial capacity due to a shortage of people and skills to fill the jobs. This is stifling economic recovery, let alone dreams of growth.
Pre-Brexit 12 -24% of the hospitality industry’s total workforce were EU Nationals. Regions and sectors within the industry varied, in London EU Nationals employed as waiters and waitresses made up 75% of the total workforce in the capital.
The difference pre and post-Brexit is there for all to see.
In recent years the anti-immigration policies of government have got louder and more discriminant, and are now discriminating by the colour of people’s skin.
If you are white and from Ukraine the Home Office will pretend that you are welcome. If your skin is any tone of brown or black, they most definitely will not, and if given the chance will forcibly deport you to Rwanda.
While many may see what is going on in the UK from within as just another of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet’s foibles, the world sees things differently. Just as a short while ago much of the world poured scorn towards Donald Trump, today that contempt is focused on what our Prime Minister is doing here, severely damaging our international reputation.
If you choose not to read the scathing interpretation of our government’s policy, it is summarised as: “The point was for Johnson and Patel to be seen to be doing something, to stage a drama, to make a mess. To be cast as a rogue nation breaching its international obligations—by the U.N.H.C.R., the European Court of Human Rights, and the European Commission, all in the space of a week—used to pass as something unusual in British politics. But it doesn’t under Johnson and his team.”
In a relatively short period of time, 2016 to date, the success achieved through decades of positive immigration seeing the UK become a lighthouse for diversity and attracting entrepreneurs from around the world to build their lives and businesses here, has been undone.
Once the current government have gone, it will take many years to rebuild what we had before we allowed this to happen. People around the world offended by our political climate will exclude themselves from it, and we are poorer for that.