JD Wetherspoon chair tells Remainers to ‘put a sock in it’

Tim Martin, founder and chair of JD Wetherspoon. Picture: Contributed
Tim Martin, founder and chair of JD Wetherspoon. Picture: Contributed
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Pub giant JD Wetherspoon’s Brexit-backing chairman has launched a fresh attack on the EU remain camp, urging them to “put a sock in it”, after cheering a solid rise in spring sales.

Since last June’s referendum, Tim Martin has accused the EU of bullying the UK and used several company updates to blast German chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

He has also lashed out at former chancellor George Osborne, the IMF, the Bank of England, the CBI, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and PwC, who he claims were too negative about the impact of a Leave vote.

Releasing a trading update today, the firm, whose 950-plus pub estate in Britain includes about 70 ­outlets in Scotland, said like-for-like sales rose 5.3 per cent in the 11 weeks to 9 July with total sales rising 3.6 per cent. Martin said the performance was “probably helped by unusually good weather”.

In the year to date, like-for-like sales increased by 3.9 per cent and total sales rose by 1.9 per cent.

The group has opened nine pubs since the start of the financial year and sold or closed 38. It expects to open one more outlet before the financial year end.

In a lengthy statement aimed at the Brexit “gloomsters”, Martin urged them to “put a sock in it”.

He said: “Many dyed-in-the-wool remainers, especially economists, are currently engaged in a rerun of project fear, forecasting dire outcomes in the absence of a deal.

“However, the public can see that the recession, combined with increased unemployment and interest rates, predicted by many of the same economists for the immediate aftermath of a leave vote, did not materialise. They are deeply sceptical of apocalyptic warnings now from the same quarter.

“The majority of the public instinctively understands the government’s bargaining dilemma. Yet the supposedly sophisticated CBI, the Financial Times, the Times and the other usual suspects are vociferous in their forecasts of trouble in the absence of a free trade deal. As a result, they are loading the dice hugely in favour of EU negotiators.

“The public’s message to Carolyn ‘we’re all doomed’ Fairbairn, head of the CBI, and other gloomsters is: put a sock in it.

“We’ll do well with or without a free trade deal, so stop tying the hands of our negotiators, who are doing their best to achieve a respectable outcome.”

Despite his views on Brexit, Martin – who owns about 28 per cent of Wetherspoon – last month announced the group’s biggest ever single investment will go into the European Union through the development of a new pub and 98-bedroom hotel in Dublin city centre.

A CBI spokesman said: “Rather than slinging mud, Mr Martin should know that all the major UK business groups have made clear the risks to the economy of leaving the EU without a deal.

“The prospect of multiple cliff edges – in tariffs, red tape and regulation – is already casting a long shadow over investment decisions for many firms in this country.

“The CBI and the wider business community is committed to making a success of the negotiations.”

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