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Wetherspoons boss attacks 'Oxbridge' Remainers for 'frustrating' Brexit as sales rise

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin at Wetherspoon's Metropolitan Bar in London on July 10, 2019. Photo: REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/pool

The founder and chairman of pub group JD Wetherspoons (JDW.L) has criticised “a technocratic elite” for “frustrating” Brexit, as his company announced rising sales but a dip in profits.

Tim Martin used his company’s preliminary results on Friday to criticise rebel Tory MPs who voted against the government to avoid a no deal Brexit.

“John Bercow, Emily Thornberry, Dominic Grieve, Keir Starmer, Jo Johnson, Philip Hammond, David Gauke, David Lidington, Hilary Benn, Rory Stewart and many other pro-EU Oxbridge MPs have played a leading role in frustrating the referendum result, by enmeshing parliament in a legal and administrative spider's web,” Martin wrote in the results statement.

Martin also criticised the Scottish High Court judge who this week ruled that Boris Johnson abused his powers by proroguing parliament for 5-weeks ahead of the 31 October Brexit deadline.

He said democratic power has been diluted in the UK over the last 30 years and “voters resent this loss of power — and distrust of politicians and the 'elite' is the result.”

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The government’s own planning documents suggest a no deal Brexit could be highly disruptive and the Bank of England has warned that falling out of the EU with no transition deal could lead to a 5.5% fall in GDP.

However, Martin argued that not having to pay EU tariffs on products like rice, oranges, bananas, Australian wine, and car parts would actually boost the UK economy.

“Above all, no-deal increases UK democracy — the most powerful economic stimulant,” he wrote.

“It is an absurdity to argue that a reduction in UK input costs, combined with increased democracy, will have a harmful effect on the economy — just as it would be absurd for a business to adopt this argument if its own costs were reduced.”

Martin is one of the most high-profile Brexit-supporting business people in the UK. He recently announced that JD Wetherspoon would knock 20p off the price of a pint to show how prices would fall if the UK left the customs union.

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The move was criticised when it was pointed out that the price cuts affected a beer made in the UK with ingredients only source from Britain, meaning it is not subject to customs duties.

Martin wrote on Friday: “Elite Remainers are ignoring the 'big picture', regarding lower input costs and more democracy, and are mistakenly concentrating on assumed short-term problems, such as potential delays at Channel ports — which are easier to extrapolate on their computer models.”

The attack on Remain-supporting politicians and those who oppose no deal came as Wetherspoons reported a rise in sales for the 52 weeks to July 28.

Sales at the pub group rose by 6.8% and revenue rose by 7.4% to £1.8bn. Pre-tax profit dipped by 4.5% to £102.5m and operating profit declined by 0.3% to £131.9m. When exceptional items are included, pre-tax profit rose by 7.2% to £95.4m.

“Despite continuing political problems, stemming from the transfer of democratic power to a technocratic elite, Wetherspoon continues to perform well,” Martin wrote.