12 | Hospitality Today | Oct/Nov 2016 Arena’s Brexit debate and ‘Face2Face’ interview At the end of last month Arena, the hospitality industry networking organization, hosted a debate on Brexit, followed by their annual ‘Face2Face’ interview and lunch, at the Landmark London hotel. The Brexit effect A panel of industry experts discussed the impact that this seismic shift for British politics could have on foodservice and hospitality. Chaired by James Bielby, CEO of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors, the panel (above) included Ufi Ibrahim, CEO, British Hospitality Association; Ian Wright CBE, Director General, Food & Drink Federation; Phil Sermon, MD, Vapiano; and Ranjit Mathrani, Chairman, MW Eat. Our industry employs 4.5 million people nationwide, and the BHA estimates that 15% of the workforce is from the EU – that’s 700,000 jobs. A percentage that is significantly higher in London. Even taking into consideration ‘churn’ (migrant workers choosing to work in the UK for a finite length of time), there could be a workforce shortfall of 350,000. With no confirmed plan from Government, and clearly more questions than answers, what are the implications and opportunities for our industry? At a time when the skills gap is already an industry issue, this is not a welcome scenario, and there are simply not enough UK nationals to make up the numbers. Concerns were also raised by some of the panel that there is not a desire within Britain to work in our industry, and that the authenticity of our celebrated multiculturalism of food could be undermined without migrant workers to support it. The biggest concern centred on immigration and a possible labour crunch. Immigration had been a primary focus of the Brexit campaign and it will be very hard for the Government not to take a hard line on this issue to show the Leave voters that they have taken note.