- Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett
The chairman of one of Britain’s largest pub chains has said the EU’s Brexit negotiators need to “take a wise-up pill,” as the company reported a boost in annual sales driven by a strong summer.
JD Wetherspoon chairman and Founder Tim Martin, a prominent Brexiteer, denied that leaving the EU would be problematic for the company or the UK, despite the fact that the chain relies on a large number of low-skilled migrant workers.
“The main risk from the current Brexit negotiations is not to Wetherspoon, but to our excellent EU suppliers – and to EU economies,” he said.
Although the chain imports much of what it sells from the EU, Martin said EU negotiators’ “current posturing and threats” were forcing British companies like his to “look elsewhere for supplies.” He would be “very reluctant” to do so but played down the hassle it would case.
He said negotiators needed to “take a wise-up pill” to retain British business and avoid causing ” further economic damage to struggling economies like Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy – where youth unemployment, in particular, is at epidemic levels.”
Martin specifically called out European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, his right-hand man Martin Selymar, chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier, and Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, for criticism.
Commenting on Friday’s results, he said UK politicians were “dealing with unelected oligarchs from the EU,” and reiterated his opinion that “democracy is the strongest economic steroid.”
Neil Wilson, an analyst at ETX Capital, described Matin’s statements as “more a paean to Brexit and rebuttal of ‘unelected EU oligarchs’ than a traditional financial report.”
It came as JD Wetherspoon reported a 15.6% jump in pre-tax profit to £76.4 million. Like-for-like sales were up 4% over the year to July. Revenue also grew 4.1% to £1.7 billion, up from £1.6 billion in 2016. Martin said sales had been driven by a “very strong” summer performance but said this high level was “unlikely to continue for the rest of the year.”
Earlier this week Martin told the Wine and Spirits Trade Association’s annual conference that he would “make the case” for low-skilled EU workers to be able to continue to come to Britain post-Brexit. There are half a million EU workers in the retail, hotels, and restaurants sectors, making up 14% of the sector’s workforce.