There are few more vocal supporters of a No Deal Brexit than Tim Martin, founder of the JD Wetherspoon pub chain. He has truly drunk in the Kool-Aid, to the extent of believing that No Deal means free trade and the ability not to honour the UK’s obligations to the EU - like stumping up the £39 billion divorce bill. Should Brexit go ahead, he is about to get an almighty shock. But first, he wants to talk about the chain’s latest results.
The FT has told that “JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin has lashed out at ‘elite Remainers’ for ignoring the long-term benefits of leaving the EU after his pub group said that profits dropped more than 4 per cent owing to higher costs during the year”. Those rotten Remainers were “ignoring the ‘big picture’, regarding lower input costs and more democracy”. More democracy, such as proroguing Parliament, perhaps.
He droned on “despite continuing political problems, stemming from the transfer of democratic power to a technocratic elite, Wetherspoon continues to perform well”. That’s the technocratic elite to which he belongs. But enough of Martin’s idiotic dribbling: let’s subject his cutting-edge business acumen to a little real world analysis.
One, Spoons has just cut the price of some beers by 20p a pint. This, Martin claimed, was to highlight the advantages of leaving the EU. But there is no EU external tariff on beer. Also, the beer which has had its price cut uses ingredients from the UK. Martin’s excuse? He “said that it reflected the overall potential for lower costs for the group in a lower-tariff regime”. Hello Tim! You can’t get lower than a zero tariff. And there is more.
Two, Spoons is moving away from EU-sourced wines. But if there really was such a punitive external EU tariff on wine, it would drive Martin’s costs up. If doesn’t, because the tariff ranges from around 9p a bottle on Australian wine to zero on that from Chile.
Three, here’s a local example for him. Cheshire East voted to Leave, but only narrowly - 51.2% to 48.8%. But Crewe, whisper it quietly, voted heavily to Leave. So what did Spoons do with their pub in the town, a year and half after the EU referendum?
They closed it. OK, the 1960-vintage shopping centre where the Spoons was located is slated to be demolished as part of a long-due redevelopment, but the chain has made no attempt to open another outlet. Meanwhile, up the road in Sandbach …
The vote there was to Remain. The town has a Waitrose. The Spoons there remains open. So if Tim Martin wants to blame “Waitrose warriors” for boycotting his pubs, he’s playing right into their hands. Hardly cutting-edge business acumen, is it? And there is more.
Four, many of those allegedly mainland European beers are actually brewed under licence in the UK (this includes Becks, Stella Artois, Carlsberg, Heineken, Tuborg and others) - so axing them harms British, not mainland EU, jobs. And Five, the largest tariff on beers, wines and spirits is duty and VAT - which is levied by the UK Government. That’s right, the hated EU tariffs have very little influence on Martin’s prices.
And he’s still too mean to pay his staff a decent crust. What a complete idiot.
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