The boss of the J D Wetherspoon pub chain has strong opinions about the relationship Britain has with the EU. Tim Martin (for it is he) has not been off the airwaves for months now, telling anyone who will listen that Brexit will be A Very Good Thing. He’s even had a propaganda pamphlet culled from anti-EU press articles delivered to most houses in the country, even those where there isn’t a Spoons in town (like Crewe).
But he’s not had to answer too many questions along the way. So Owen Jones decided to correct that anomaly, and sat down with The Great Man at a Spoons in Southend-on-Sea. Why, he asked Martin, did people vote for Brexit? “You never knew where EU laws started, and British law ended”. That turned out not to be a wise move.
Which EU law didn’t he like, asked Jones. “It’s too disective [?] to boil it down … let me give you one example of the EU, OK? There was huge pressure on us to join the predecessor of the Euro, which was the Exchange Rate Mechanism”. Ah, “but that was a voluntary decision. We weren’t compelled to join the ERM”, pointed out Jones.
Martin had another go. “70% of people thought it was inevitable that the UK would join [the Euro] … I don’t like the Eurozone, I think it’s very dangerous”. Jones pointed out that we weren’t in the Eurozone. Martin complained about being interrupted.
Jones called him out. “I think there are many valid criticisms to be made of the EU, but you haven’t found a single law you object to … and you’ve brought up the Eurozone, which we’re not members of … if the Eurozone goes wrong, it’s irrelevant whether we’re in the EU or not … but you’re not coming up with a valid criticism?”.
It was not going well. And Martin then ensured that it got worse. “How would I know if an individual law … it’s almost impossible to know if an individual law is made by the EU, or by the UK”. Christ on a bike, he’s advocating for Brexit and he’s not done his homework.
Jones tried another tack, to point out that in many Leave-voting parts of the country, voters were fed up with the way the country was being run - the implicit suggestion being that some may have blamed the EU for the failings of Westminster. Martin was not persuaded. “I’ve heard people say that. I think it’s a slightly patronising view. The assumption is they didn’t understand the vote, that’s the implication”. Er, no.
Then came the part Martin really didn’t like. “The truth is that you yourself are part of the elite. You’re a very wealthy man,” pitched Jones. “And many of your workers are on poverty wages”. It was just a silly conversation, countered The Great Man.
Jones had another go. “They’re being paid £8.05 an hour. You can’t live on £8.05 an hour. Surely you could give then a little bit better?” Martin was by now getting flaky. “Owen, you’re constantly interrupting me. This is a childish interview. You’ve been on the Stella. This is what’s causing him to interrupt”. Shades of Julia Hartley Dooda there.
Martin accused Jones of being “rude and aggressive” but declined to engage on the subject of wages. Nor did he manage to cite one of those EU laws he didn’t like.
Another Brexiteer probed, another car crash. It’s starting to become a habit.
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