London: A large group of restaurateurs led by a Bangladeshi union has made a common cause with Indian-origin minister Priti Patel to call for Britain's exit from the EU in a highly-anticipated referendum this week to "save" the 4-billion-pound curry industry struggling with staff shortage.
The move has made the 'clash of curries' a central theme to the campaign in the lead up to Thursday's referendum which will decide Britain's future in the 28-member European Union.
The Bangladesh Caterers Association (BCA) has sided with Patel to call for 'Brexit' to "save Britain's curry industry", arguing that free movement of people from Europe hampers the industry's ability to bring in trained chefs from the Indian sub-continent.
"Curry is our national dish but unfortunately four to five curry houses are closing every week. There is a clear double standard in the immigration policy, where we are unable to bring in skilled chefs but thousands are free to come in from Europe," said Pasha Khandekar, president of the BCA, which represents around 12,000 restaurants and takeaways up and down the UK with their roots in the subcontinent.
However, on the opposing end is the UK's Asian Catering Federation (ACF) which has been backing the campaign for Britain to remain in the EU, while continuing to lobby the government on staff shortages within the curry industry.
The ACF, which represents a wider network of around 20,000 restaurants by working alongside the Federation of Bangladeshi Caterers UK, the Chinese Takeaway Association UK and the Malaysian Restaurant Association, believes Brexit is not the answer to Britain's curry woes.
"The ACF recognises the contribution of EU members, especially those from Eastern Europe, who are prepared to undertake demanding work and anti-social hours associated with the hospitality industry," it said in a statement.
ACF president Yawar Khan has also written to British Prime Minister David Cameron to further discuss the problems faced by the curry industry but has meanwhile asked its members to vote to remain in the EU.
Curry dates back to 1810 in the UK, when the first such restaurant opened in the country. It has since become a generic term used to refer to food originating in the Indian subcontinent and tailored to suit British palates. Chicken Tikka Masala, a typically British twist to chicken curry, has been famously-branded the nation's favourite dish.
Curry houses in particular have their roots largely among Bangladeshi-origin migrants, with some from India and Pakistan. In recent times, authentically Indian restaurants with roots in India tend to occupy the slightly higher-end of the market....