When I allow myself to cast my mind back to the halcyon days of the Brexit referendum, I often wonder, with the benefit of hindsight, what would have swung it for Remain. Would it have been the knowledge that we’d be battling an earth-shattering two-year-long pandemic at the same time as the biggest trade shake up in decades? Perhaps that miraculous disappearing £350 million a week for the NHS? Or maybe that Brexit would see off two Prime Ministers in three years and create unprecedented political and social instability?
This week I think I have finally found the answer, and it’s just three simple words: “Nando’s will close”. Yes, the nation’s favourite chicken shop has had to shut the doors of around 50 outlets in Britain, which makes up roughly 10 per cent of its restaurant, because shortages have hit their chicken supply chain.
In response to customers asking why their local Nando’s was closed, or the menu limited, the South African chain said on Twitter that “the UK supply chain is having a bit of a (night)mare right now.” A slight understatement. This news comes a week after KFC said it was struggling to stock some items and use its normal packaging due to disruption in recent weeks.
As a vegetarian of almost ten years now, you might not think this news would bother me. But any veteran veggie will know that Nando’s had delicious vegetarian options on their menu long before it was cool, and for that they will always have a place in my heart. Also before I am a vegetarian I am a Londoner, and this news cuts to the bone.
It is the latest in a seemingly never-ending list of blows to the country’s hospitality sector, and also in the long, long list of things that apparently have nothing to do with Brexit and everything to do with Covid.
This is not to say that the pandemic hasn’t had any impact. Retailers, cafes, bars and restaurants have certainly faced devastating blows as a result of the pingdemic chaos disrupting supply chains and leading to devastating staff shortages, for example.
However, the spectre of Brexit has been hiding in the shadow of the pandemic for a while now. The British Poultry Council itself said food producers are facing serious staff shortages because of Brexit. Its members, which include the country’s largest supplier of supermarket chicken, said one in six jobs were unfilled as a result of EU workers leaving the UK after Brexit.
I was opposed to Brexit in 2016, but now that we’re in it I sincerely want it to work. I am not one of those people who enjoys watching it not work. I am not gloating that fishermen and farmers and ordinary people are suffering, regardless of how they voted. But we cannot exist in perpetual denial.
What do you think is to blame for Nando’s closing? Let us know in the comments below.