Last Friday (30th November) the boss of the international pub chain, Tim Martin, made an appearance in his Penzance bar to promote his views on leaving the EU. He had invited supporters of Leave campaigns and the general public to come in and chat.
Some local Lib Dem members including Alice Mumford (pictured) saw the leaflets that Mr Martin was giving out. This literature claims that all reports predicting retail price increases after March 29th are “lies” and states that “food prices will fall if tariffs end on 29th March”. None of this, however, was backed up by any evidence.
Power without responsibility
Alice asked Martin why he doesn’t run for elected office if he has such strong views of leaving EU, and pointed out that with all the leverage he has from his 900-pub platform, he exerts “power without responsibility.” Bill Mumford asked him if he would be prepared to shoulder any blame if the Brexit project inflicts major damage to the UK economy. He would not be drawn on either point.
We think this “pound-shop Arron Banks” holds some contradictory positions on leaving the EU. In September 2018 he was interviewed by BBC national news following a profits warning posted by his company, and said that the prices to customers of his pubs would have to rise in part due to increasing labour costs. While asserting that leaving Europe would be to the UK’s commercial advantage, he commented that that “our birthrate is falling” and that the UK needs immigration and freedom of movement to recruit suitable staff in sufficient numbers.
Expanding into the EU
This year Wetherspoons announced plans to at least double and possibly triple its pubs in the Republic of Ireland (which is in the EU). The five it already has there are trading much more successfully than those in the UK, and three more will open next year.
What do we make of Tim Martin’s campaign? What kind of Brexit deal does he want? Something like the Norway model, in which the UK stays in the single market and therefore accepts Freedom of Movement, which would supply the staff he needs? Or a no-deal Brexit, as he denies that there will be any negative consequences? But if, as he claims, there will be no economic damage, why is he now acquiring and opening so many pubs that will still be within the EU after March 2019?