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‘Downton Abbey’ castle halts weddings due to Brexit, says owner

It is a problem the butler of “Downton Abbey” might have sympathised with.

Highclere Castle in southern England, where the early 20th century period drama about the lives of aristocrats and their servants was filmed, is facing a serious staffing crunch.

The reason is the dearth of workers from the European Union, which has forced owner Fiona Carnarvon to mothball the castle’s main business of hosting larger weddings on the site of the Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning show.

“We have stopped being able to offer any weddings of any substantial size because of Brexit,” Carnarvon, a countess who owns Highclere with her husband, the eighth Earl of Carnarvon, said.

“There are no staff,” she said, speaking from the morning room at the Victorian castle that sits on a 5,000-acre estate.

It used to host around 25 weddings with more than 100 guests a season. Weddings with around 20 guests are still possible, but are a much smaller part of a business that the owners say can cost several thousands of pounds a day to run.

Revenues from other parts of Highclere’s business such as its gift shop – the house opens to the public during the summer months – have also fallen, which Carnarvon says reflects not just Brexit but also the hit to the hospitality industry from COVID-19 and the cost-of-living crisis.

Its staffing challenges in particular illustrate the still-unfolding impacts of Brexit on Britain’s labour market three years after the UK’s departure from the European Union, its biggest trading partner.

source: Reuters
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