As Sky News has reported, “Pub chain Wetherspoons will cut the number of EU-sourced drinks and replace them with British ones in the run up to Brexit. French champagne and German beers will be substituted for alternatives from the UK and other countries outside the bloc”. Boss Tim Martin had his usual strong words for the EU.
“The EU's customs union is a protectionist system which is widely misunderstood … It imposes tariffs on the 93% of the world that is not in the EU, keeping prices high for UK consumers … Tariffs are imposed on wine from Australia, New Zealand and the US … There will be an inevitable transfer of trade post-Brexit to countries outside the EU, which will reduce prices in shops and pubs”. And he’s talking complete crap.
Because, although Martin was cheered by Nigel “Thirsty” Farage, those who knew what they were talking about were not so easily impressed. Among them was Gavin Quinney, who might be expected to know the subject as he runs a Bordeaux vineyard. “Let’s just clear up this press release from Wetherspoons’ Tim Martin. The EU, he says, ‘imposes tariffs on the 93% of the world that is not in the EU, keeping prices high for UK consumers. Tariffs are imposed on wine from Australia, New Zealand and the US…’” he began.
And then he put Martin straight. “The EU tariff on wine from Australia is €0.099 ltr for wine <13 abv="" aus="" bulk="" by="" in="" of="" or="" shipped="" to="" uk="" vol="" wine="">13% abv. That’s 6.5p to 8p a bottle in EU tariff. 13>UK wine duty, charged by HM Govt, is 27 TIMES higher at £2.16 a bottle + VAT on duty and the wine” [my emphasis].
Because of all that wine duty, Quinney observed, “The result is that HM Govt charges its wine consumers 63% of all the wine duty levied in the EU”. And there was worse news for the arch-Brexiteer from Charles Tannock, who is a Tory MEP.
“And as the EU is negotiating an FTA with both Australia and New Zealand it will be zero in future so an utterly irrelevant comment. Excise duty in UK is the significant tax not the import tariff. Remember a leading Brexiteer making similar claim for Chilean wine which now has FTA”. That, of course, was Tannock’s colleague Dan, Dan The Oratory Man.
Could it get worse for the Spoons boss? It certainly could: Jim Cornelius, who is “Not an expert. I just look stuff up”, had to point out that “It’s not 93% of the world either - there are just 24 countries we trade with on WTO terms where the MFN tariff applies. All the rest are on preferential of free trade deals”. So from small tariffs to no tariffs at all, then.
Mike Galsworthy concurred. “Tariffs on 93% of the world? Godammit. For the nth time, the EU has a *zero tariff* policy for world’s poorest ~47 countries (look up EU’s ‘Everything But Arms’ initiative). EU has a lower average tariff level than the US. The CU is indeed widely misunderstood, including by Tim Martin”. Got it in one.
When business folk like Tim Martin don’t know what they’re on about, it should surprise no-one that other Brexiteers are so prone to abject cluelessness. It’s only a pity that they don’t get that they are also cluelessly screwing with this country’s future.