The Brexit effect

In 2013 David Cameron looked on aghast as the battle between the European and Eurosceptic factions threatened to split his party. The decision he took - calling a referendum on EU membership - seemed logical at the time, but will probably be remembered as one of the most disastrous in recent British history.

Cameron could not have been expected to foresee that voters over a certain age, the bulk of them mistakenly thinking they were voting against uncontrolled immigration, would overwhelm the under-25s, who, in their vast majority, wanted to continue as Europeans.

In the current limbo-land, the uncertainty is affecting small restaurants as much as major banks. No-one has properly assessed the likely domino effect that the Brexistas ignored. Just as one example, the EU Medicine Agency, based in London, will have to close its doors and dismiss its 900 employees. Worse, the mere existence of this important EU agency has ensured during decades a continual stream of visitors that filled 350 local hotel rooms daily throughout the year. And where did these visitors go to eat and drink? At the restaurants and pubs in the area.

No restaurant business is exempt. Russell Norman, owner of the Polpo chain, is concerned that the fall in the value of the pound will continue to increase prices of all imported drink and foodstuffs. Jeremy King, whose group includes some of London's best restaurants, such as Wolseley, Delauny and Zedel, has seen the change in attitude of his foreign employees. They no longer consider themselves welcome in their adopted country, and many are considering leaving Britain. On the basis that they form 75 per cent of the workforce, who will replace them? Not the British, who have shown a traditional aversion to such work. As King says, 'Without free movement of labour this business has no future.'

In some UK restaurants customers have noticed the recent absence of tablecloths and staff uniforms. What will be the next cost-cutting measures?