EU Referendum

EU referendum: Row over impact on UK curry houses

Chicken Tikka Masala Image copyright AFP/Getty Images

A row has broken out over a claim by Tory minister and Leave campaigner Priti Patel that leaving the EU would "save" Britain's curry houses.

Ms Patel said the government's "biased" immigration policy prevented talented chefs from outside the EU from being able to come to the UK to work.

But Labour MP Keith Vaz, who backs Remain, accused Ms Patel of using EU migration as a "scapegoat".

It was "divide and rule politics of the worst kind", he said.

The UK votes on whether to stay in or leave the European Union in a referendum on 23 June.

Immigration is one of the key battlegrounds in the campaign, which has less than six weeks to go.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Priti Patel said high-

In an interview with the Evening Standard newspaper, Ms Patel claimed that the UK's curry restaurants were being denied high-quality chefs because of the caps on the number of non-EU workers able to come to the UK.

"This means that we cannot bring in the talents and the skills we need to support our economy.

"By voting to leave we can take back control of our immigration policies, save our curry houses and join the rest of the world," she said.

Conservative MP and EU exit campaigner Paul Scully, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group for the British Curry Catering Industry, has made the same point.

In a Commons debate in October 2015, Mr Scully said if the UK left the EU "things such as the curry industry - bringing curry chefs over - might benefit".

Image caption Mr Vaz accused Ms Patel of using immigration as a "scapegoat"

Responding to Ms Patel's comments, Mr Vaz, who chairs the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said: "The problems facing Britain's curry houses could easily be solved by lowering the salary requirement for chefs recruited from abroad.

"But Priti Patel has failed to address this issue and is now conveniently using EU migration as a scapegoat. This is divide and rule politics of the worst kind."

He added: "The Leave campaign are determined to play people off against each other, but the hugely damaging impact of leaving the single market would be felt by us all no matter our background.

"We should have no truck with those who try to divide our society and wreck our economy."