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Brexit risks triggering chefs’ exodus

Specialist chefs should be given special status under any future migrant workers’ scheme to stave off a recruitment crisis in the UK restaurant sector.

The call came from the Pizza Pasta & Italian Food Association whose research suggests that more than half the workforce currently working in restaurants and pizza delivery businesses across the UK would have to leave the country if there is no agreement over the rights of EU workers.

It claimed that without overseas workers, the industry would struggle to provide the level of service consumers have come to expect and many restaurants might be forced to close since they could not be replaced with UK nationals.

The Association said there is already a shortage of skilled pizza chefs in the UK with the uncertainties of Brexit causing some Italian pizzaiolos to return to Italy or take up jobs in mainland Europe.

It is calling for the government to introduce a visa system that would allow unskilled or semi-skilled workers into the country for a limited period to take up vacancies that cannot otherwise be filled. It also wants specialists, such as pizza chefs, to be included on any acceptable skills lists.

“The uncertainty over Brexit is already being felt,” said Jim Winship, director of the Association.  “Some workers from overseas have already started leaving because they feel insecure and this is not helped by the weak pound.

“Unless the Government gives some real assurances soon, this could turn into a flood and many of our member businesses would struggle.”