How could a ‘no deal’ Brexit affect the UK Kebab Industry?
By Edward Rowe and Timur Ekingen,
With the 12 December general election fast approaching, Brexit is expected to dominate the debates
and the headlines. While Boris Johnson’s deal passed through the House of Commons last October, a
hung parliament situation in which the Brexit Party has enough seats to hold the balance could also
threaten to derail the Prime Minister’s agreement and put ‘no deal’ back on the table.
With this possible outcome in mind, BritShish asks, “how could a ‘no deal’ Brexit affect the British
Imports and exports
Kebab businesses that trade meat and other products with EU countries are likely to be impacted by
any new arrangement between Britain and the European Union, regardless of whether there is a
deal or not.
A leading London doner producer has said the effects of a ‘no deal’ Brexit on the Kebab Industry
could vary because of the nature of UK kebab meat production. “While Brexit is unlikely to impact
the lamb doner market which is mostly produced with meat supplied by British farmers, chicken
prices will most probably increase with a ‘no deal’ exit, as the majority of chicken used in the sector
is imported from abroad” Vatan Catering Director Tuncel Nalbantoglu told BritshShish.
The British Poultry Council has echoed these concerns around chicken, saying “A no-deal Brexit
would be incredibly damaging for our sector, for our ability to trade … and for British consumers of
The statement adds that “Almost three quarters of our [poultry] imports (£2bn/year) and exports
(£500m/year) are with the EU – ensuring a continuation of trade with that market is essential … We
estimate in the worst case no-deal scenario, the price of breast meat could rise by 25%.”
If chicken prices rise as expected because of new import tariffs, high street kebab vendors could be
forced to push their own retail rates on chicken up, which could in turn damage their sales and the
viability of their businesses.
A ‘no deal’ Brexit could also have an adverse effect on British kebab meat exports. Research from
2017 has shown that British doner meat manufacturers produce around 300 tonnes of lamb and 50
tonnes of chicken doner every day, and that EU countries including Germany, Italy and Poland in
particular have become important export markets for this produce.
According to 2016 figures from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, over
90% of UK lamb exports go to EU countries. The organisation valued British lamb sold in Germany at
£53m, Italy at £18m and Poland at £1m, a significant sum for UK meat producers. British chicken sold
to customers in these three countries combined was valued at a further £7m.
British kebab meat exporters who generate a portion of this income stand to lose out to tariffs as
high as 40%-65% if Britain leaves the EU without a new trade arrangement and opts for World Trade
EU businesses that supply the British Kebab Industry have also expressed concerns about a ‘no deal’
exit. Patrick Konings the director of the leading Dutch fruit and vegetable supplier Marni Fruits B.V.
told BritShish “We still hope there will be no Brexit, we found that this is best for everybody. But this
game has already cost so much money, that I think it [the Brexit process] will continue till there is a
deal. When Brexit is there, trade shall get more difficult.”
Referring to the additional administrative and transport measures that could need to be taken to
ship goods from mainland Europe to Britain, he added “All this will bring more work for us before we
can ship it to the UK. It will also add extra costs to the products, because all those institutions will
cost money, they don’t work for nothing … transport will be more expensive because they have to
calculate with empty spaces when goods are not ready for shipment.”
According to the Office for National Statistics, the EU accounted for nearly two-thirds of Britain’s
fruit and vegetable imports last year. This is important for the Kebab Industry because key products
such as tomatoes and especially potatoes (including frozen potato products such as chips) — almost
all of which came from EU countries, particularly Belgium and the Netherlands — are at risk of
becoming more expensive.
Access to labour
British kebab restaurants and takeaways’ ability to access crucial migrant labour could also be
affected after a ‘no deal’ Brexit. This is because the UK would leave the European Single Market
which guarantees the right of EU citizens to move, work and live freely within EU member countries.
The UK Government could instead be able to set its own immigration policy and decide whether or
not to accept EU migrants.
If the UK makes it harder for EU migrants to enter Britain as a result of ‘no deal’ this could
reduce opportunities for kebab businesses to hire migrant workers as table staff and chefs. In recent
years Bulgarians and Romanians have been a major labour source for thousands of takeaways and
restaurants across the UK.
Mehmet Ali Kaya the owner of the Shoreditch-based kebab restaurant The Iskele told BritShish that
“Romanians and Bulgarians can be found working in almost every Turkish kebab restaurant. Turkish-
speaking Bulgarian nationals have been especially valuable employees for myself and many others.
The whole restaurant and takeaway sector could face a huge staff shortage problem if there is a ‘no
deal’ Brexit, hundreds of shops are already closing down because of the lack of available staff.”
The prospects of Britain exiting the EU without a deal look bleak for the UK Kebab Industry. Whether
a small restaurant or takeaway looking to recruit staff or buy imported ingredients and supplies, or a
big meat producer selling goods abroad, a ‘no deal’ Brexit could have a less than desirable impact on
many Kebab Industry businesses.
With a ‘no deal’ Brexit on 31 October still a possibility, BritShish asks, “how could leaving the European Union without a deal affect the British Kebab Industry?”
A ‘no deal’ Brexit would mean that Britain leaves the EU without a withdrawal agreement or transition period for businesses and public bodies to make adjustments to the new status quo.
Leaving the EU without a deal could affect British kebab businesses in several ways including in terms of their ability to export and import products to and from EU countries and to access both skilled and unskilled labour. ‘No deal’ could also prompt the UK Kebab Industry to organise and club together to make sure that kebab businesses have a voice in this process and beyond.
The Kebab Sector is likely to be impacted by any future trade agreement between Britain and the EU. This applies in particular to kebab businesses that sell meat and other products to or buy them from EU countries.
Research from 2017 has shown that British doner meat manufacturers produce around 300 tonnes of lamb and 50 tonnes of chicken doner on a daily basis.
While most doner meat served in UK kebab takeaways and restaurants is produced domestically, some British producers also export doner meat abroad. EU countries including Germany, Italy and Poland in particular are important foreign markets for British doner.
According to 2016 figures from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, over 90% of UK lamb exports go to EU countries. The organisation valued British lamb sold in Germany at £53m, Italy at £18m and Poland at £1m, a significant sum for UK meat producers. British chicken sold to customers in these three countries combined was valued at a further £7m.
British kebab meat exporters who generate a portion of this income stand to lose out to tariffs as high as 40%-65% if Britain leaves the EU without a new trade arrangement and opts for World Trade Organisation terms.
Other kebab businesses across Britain import beef and chicken produce from the EU, particularly from Germany. These operators could also be disadvantaged by similar import tariffs.
Tuncel Nalbantoglu of Vatan Catering says meat prices will be decrease and meat doner prices unlikely will be effected after Brexit as almost entire meats comes from British farmers. But he says chicken prices most probably will increase especially with no deal Brexit… as most of chicken comes from other countries.
The EU accounted for nearly two-thirds of Britain’s imports of fruit and vegetables last year, according to the Office of National Statistics. Spain was the biggest foreign supplier of fresh produce, followed by the Netherlands. In turn, Britain is an important market for Spanish produce – its third biggest – with fruit and vegetable exports worth nearly two billion euros last year. For example frozen potato products, such as chips, are the largest category of UK potato imports, with 99% coming from the EU, particularly the Netherlands and Belgium. And also Britain imports more than £400m of fresh tomatoes every year. Many of them come from the Netherlands’ super-efficient greenhouses, which produce more tomatoes per square mile than any other country.
One of a leading fruit and vegetable suppliers Dutch company Marni Fruits B.V. Director Patrick Konings says ; “We hope still there will be no Brexit, we found that the best for everybody . But this game has cost already so much money , that I think It will continue till there is a deal . When Brexit is there trade shall be going more difficult .
Causes of this are :
KCB inspection ( Dutch government institution ) Portbase input Custom services / paperwork Transportation
All this will bring more work for us before we can ship it to the Uk .
Also it will bring extra costs to the product, because all those institutions will cost money , they don’t work for nothing .
Also I think transport will be more expensive because they have to calculate with empty spaces when goods are not ready for shipment .
What the extra costs are is still difficult to say , because it is not clear what kind of trade procedure there will be between EU and UK .
To explain it simple how we have to follow the line to transport the goods is the following : Our order we put in our system then we have to send this to KCB control and give it to transport who put it in Portbase system for us. When KCB have checked the goods and find it ok the give a sign to us and transport and customs. When then the documents are ready and stamped ok by KCB transport gives ok in Portbase system , so that the Stena line can take the goods on board. If one of those procedures is not going well , the products will not be loaded…”
British kebab restaurants and takeaways’ ability to access both skilled and unskilled migrant labour could also be affected in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit. This is because the UK would leave the European Single Market which guarantees the right of EU citizens to move, work and live freely within any other EU member country. The UK Government could instead be able to set its own immigration policy and decide whether or not to let in EU migrants.
If the UK makes it harder for EU migrants to enter Britain as a result of ‘no deal’ this could reduce opportunities for kebab takeaways and restaurants to employ unskilled workers such as table staff, many of whom come from across the European Union.
In the same way, an exit in this manner could also decrease the pool of talent available to these businesses including skilled workers such as specialist chefs from EU countries like Greece or Cyprus as well as from non-EU Turkey.
In Turkey’s case this is because with a ‘no deal’ Brexit, Britain could automatically pull out of the Ankara Agreement. This arrangement was signed in 1963 by the EU’s forerunner the European Economic Community and Turkey and allows Turkish citizens to gain residency rights, establish businesses and work in the UK. Britain could withdraw from this agreement by leaving the EU because the treaty was made with Turkey by Brussels on Britain’s behalf rather than between the two countries bilaterally.
In leaving this agreement as part of ‘no deal’ Brexit, Britain could also be blocking an important avenue for Turkish kebab chefs, butchers and entrepreneurs from entering the UK and contributing to existing kebab businesses or starting new ones.
Bulgarians and Romanians are main labour sources of takeaways and restaurants for recent years. Indian, Turkish and Asian restaurants employ thousands of them even as chefs. Iskele Restaurant owner Mehmet Ali Kaya says can be found almost every Turkish restaurant many Bulgarians who also can speak Turkish. Restaurant and takeaway sector face big staff shortage issue and even hundreds of shops are closing down because of this issue. Despite the huge contribution to the economy kebab and takeaway businesses are facing skills shortages, also in other cuisines like curry, sushi, Chinese and fish and chips.
Some Bulgarian workers from a Turkish restaurant also worry about future. Naciye says she is wondering have difficulties to back her country or have her parents to London sometimes….
An opportunity to organise and influence
A ‘no deal’ Brexit could also hand the UK Kebab Industry an important new opportunity. In the face of challenges presented by Brexit around international trade, the ability to access labour, and other issues, ‘no deal’ could prompt the sector to organise and make its voice heard.
The Kebab Industry stands to lose out if it does not engage with decision-makers, and leaving the EU without a deal could wake kebab businesses up to the need for a representative body to promote its interests not only in the Brexit process but also beyond.
Let’s not forget that the European Parliament almost voted to ban vital phosphates required to keep doner meat together, juicy and flavourful in December 2017. While enough MEPs voted to protect the industry across Europe, a representative from the German Association of Doner Kebab Producers said that a successful phosphate ban attempt would be a “death sentence for the entire doner kebab industry in the European Union.”
Close shaves like these and the current risk to the Kebab Industry posed by a ‘no deal’ Brexit should sound alarm bells and remind businesses across the sector that they so desperately need to unite, find a common voice and use that voice to influence decisions and policies that affect them.
Kebab businesses whether chains, local restaurants or takeaways looking to recruit suitable staff or buy imported ingredients and supplies, or big meat producers selling their goods abroad trade and operate across Britain; they could well be affected for the worse if Britain leaves the EU without a suitable agreement.
The Confederation of British Industry or CBI tries to speak on behalf of UK businesses and campaign in their interests, a ‘no deal’ Brexit might cause the Kebab Industry to realise that it is time for a CBKI too.
Kebab meat producers and restaurant or takeaway owners are part of a national industry which deserves national representation to ensure that policy-makers are aware of and can address their concerns and help solve their problems, it’s important to remember that they could be about to have plenty.