Tim Martin: leave the EU tomorrow

Tim Martin © Getty Images
Tim Martin: things are messy, but moving in the right direction

It’s 18 months since the referendum, but many business leaders are still reluctant to get publicly involved in the debate over what type of Brexit the government should pursue. But Tim Martin – founder and chairman of JD Wetherspoon, which runs almost 1,000 pubs, bars and hotels – is certainly not one.

Martin released a “Brexit manifesto” printed on 500,000 beer mats last November. He has agreed to talk to us about how Brexit is affecting his company and what he wants from the process.

As a company that operates almost exclusively in the UK, Wetherspoon has been largely unaffected by the referendum so far. The only effect come from the fall in the value of sterling. Because Wetherspoon imports a large amount of its food, “the weaker pound has pushed up our costs”, admits Martin, although the increase has been “relatively small, around 2% of total costs”. The business was affected more by last year’s rises in beer duty and the minimum wage.

Martin is optimistic about the direction of the UK economy, and is extremely sceptical of what he sees as the “scare stories” from the CBI and BRC (British Retail Consortium), about Brexit’s effect on the economy. The only problem would be if the UK took advantage of leaving the EU to impose new regulations. This could end up being expensive, especially in the short run, “since the biggest problem that businesses face with red tape doesn’t come from the rules themselves, but the one-off cost of having to change your systems”.

A three-point plan for Britain

Martin’s manifesto has three main elements. Firstly, the government should give British citizenship to EU citizens currently living and working here. This would “be good for the economy” and “generate goodwill from the rest of Europe”, and would be a reflection of reality, since “there are no circumstances under which the government would want to start repatriating large numbers of Europeans”. However, in the longer-term Martin would like immigration policy to be determined by the UK, rather than by “the oligarchs of Brussels”. In his view the UK should adopt a point-based system “like Australia, New Zealand and Singapore”.

Martin is sceptical about the idea of a brain drain, with EU citizens returning to the continent creating labour shortages. He’s seen some evidence that “small numbers of Europeans are going back home” and there are definitely “less of them going to the UK”. But this is more a reflection of the fact that, as many of the former communist countries catch up with Britain’s standard of living, the UK becomes less attractive. Overall, while he predicts that employers like Wetherspoon, “will have to work a little harder to find workers, that’s the way it should be”.

The second policy that Martin wants the UK government to adopt is the unilateral abolition of tariffs and quotas on agricultural products. As the repeal of the Corn Laws in the 19th century demonstrated, cheaper food benefits everyone, especially British consumers, since restaurants and pubs would be able to “pass on modest reductions in prices to consumers”. Free trade in agriculture would “slay the myth that food prices will go up after Brexit”. Another benefit of leaving the EU is that “we would be free to determine our own food standards, so if we wanted to continue banning GM foods we could”.

The final part of his plan is to immediately end all budgetary payments to Brussels. Martin thinks that they are unfair, “because no other country in the world is paying for trade”.  Indeed, the budgetary contributions are particularly galling since, Britain’s trade deficit with Europe means that the “rest of the EU benefits more from the trade than the UK”. He also thinks that it is “hypocritical for the EU to criticise Donald Trump for protectionist measures while threatening to impose even more barriers to trade with the UK”.

Leave quickly and replicate existing trade agreements

Martin is not swayed by the argument that such payments are necessary to ensure a smooth transition. “Not one businessman has said to me that leaving the EU will be hard”. Indeed, “as far as I can see we could easily leave next week”. When Britain does leave, Martin thinks that we should quickly work with Canada and South Korea to replicate existing trade agreements. “Next we should focus on countries that we have a strong relationship with like Australia and New Zealand”

Finally, Martin is confident that Britain can secure agreements with India, China and South Korea. After all, “the EU has not been successful in getting agreements with the top ten global economies”.

Despite his calls for an immediate break with the EU, Martin is surprisingly positive about what the government has done so far. May is “doing OK”. He is worried about the tone of the debate, including the claims of those who want a softer Brexit, and considers the political situation to be “messy”. However, as far as he is concerned, things are ultimately moving in the “right direction”.

  • mike_in_brum

    Just leave now and deport all the immigrants! Problem solved!

    • Matthew

      Immigrants from how far back 1066?

      • AAJ

        Send those job thieving Norman’s home. Maybe then I’ll get my land back and I can ditch this damn job in IT and grow my own turnips

      • Rintintin

        Here we go again…Britain has always been a nation of immigrants myth. Notwithstanding that Britain has had a relatively low immigration until post WW2 mass immigration leading to some cities in the UK , including London having a minority status for British born, and total percentage running at 15% and rising, there are multiple issues to contend with , from strains on housing, schooling, health system, depression of lowest wages and cultural incompatibility. Even Saint Merkel, she who unilaterally invited over a million “refugees” into Europe, has said multiculturalism isnt working. As for 1066, the Normans weren’t immigrants, they were colonizers…

      • Horiboyable .

        What am I going to do now? I only discovered yesterday that I am black.

        LOL

    • LG

      Which problem?

  • Matthew

    Really interesting that every business man he spoke to said it isn’t hard to leave the EU. Well anyone wants to get on the record? Because nobody of note have actually said it is easy?

    • Jon Parsons

      Here’s one!

      “Leave campaigner Sir James Dyson expects the UK to leave the EU with no deal, and trade to default to World Trade Organization rules and tariffs.

      Sir James, who founded the engineering firm Dyson, told the BBC such an arrangement would “hurt the Europeans more than the British”.”

      Even on the Beeb!

      • Matthew

        Yes, Dyson the man who sells you £400 fans and vaccum cleaners to the elite. His doing the poor people a favour.

      • LG

        If something is going to “hurt the Europeans more than the British”, how does that mean leaving the EU will be easy?

      • Chris Kubicki

        Do you mean James Dyson the Far East Manufacturer of Vacuum cleaners?

        • jorji

          No, he means James Dyson, the major UK employer and major UK taxpayer.

          • Chris Kubicki

            That’s the chap moved his production to Malaysia in 2003 and then built his new motor device in a new factory in Singapore in 2013 .

  • Cynic_Rick

    Matthew (that is Dr Matthew Partridge):

    Tim Martin, insofar as Brexit is concerned, obviously doesn’t see the bigger picture; he sees it mainly from his own perspective as chairman of JD Wetherspoon.

    Brexit should be about improving the long term prospects of the majority in the UK.

    Might I be so bold as to suggest you approach Dr Richard North for an interview?

    • AAJ

      “he sees it mainly from his own perspective”

      Exactly, and a lower pound means more tourists to buy a pie and a pint. Of course he doesn’t see a brain drain … of bar staff.

      Moneyweek should interview a NHS trust and ask them how they are doing with their nurse recruitment. Or a construction company, or a …

      There are always winners and losers. On average so far, and most likely in the future, we’ll be slightly worse off.

      • Peterjoh

        We will be able to work around the world, assuming free trade happens, not just in the Eu with its language barriers. A lot of fun and many more opportunities for young people.

        • LG

          “We’ll be able to work around the world….”

          Can you just explain how that works? I suspect it sounds ok in your head. Not sure it works in the real world.

        • Peter Edwards

          What a silly thing to say, what stops us from working around the world now.

          • James Taylor

            We can trade with the rest of the world already, but only in a way that complies with the rules that the EU imposes on us.

            Once we leave the EU we will then be free to trade with the rest of the world without the EU having a say on the trade deals – this is the opportunity.

            • Cynic_Rick

              “We can trade with the rest of the world already, but only in a way that complies with the rules that the EU imposes on us.

              “Once we leave the EU we will then be free to trade with the rest of the world without the EU having a say on the trade deals – this is the opportunity.”

              Correct.

              And by taking the EEA/Efta (Flexcit) route to leave the EU we can remain in the Single Market whilst building-up additional trade with the ROW unencumbered by constraints imposed by the EU.

            • Martin

              Which rules do the EU put on us that impedes our ability to export? You don’t know what you are talking about. You are repeating the mantras of Boris and Gove, and they clearly have no idea what they are talking about either! So, go on, what rules impede our ability to export our goods and services?

              • Cynic_Rick

                As a member of the EU we are not allowed to make our own trading arrangements with the RoW.

                There’s a wealth of information here about the UK’s shackled ability to trade with the RoW whilst it remains in the EU:

                http://eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=86751

                Here’s a taste:

                “What is certain, though, is that once we are clear of the transition process – however long that takes – we will be on our own, having to make direct agreements with the rest of the world to replace those forged by the EU upon which we have been relying.”

                And another:

                “As it stands, though, if the real work of negotiating non-EU trade deals cannot start until we have finalised our trading relationships with the EU, and we will not have finalised our relations with the EU until the end of the transitional period, then it is questionable as to whether Dr Fox’s department can get fully to grips with its brief until the beginning of 2021 (assuming the transition period ends at the end of December 2021).”

                • Cynic_Rick

                  Furthermore, under the EEA/Efta umbrella the UK would not only be unfettered by the constraints of the EU in spear-heading its own trading agreements with the RoW but be enabled to continue trading with the EU27 as a member of the Single Market.

              • James Taylor

                You are the one who doesn’t know what they are talking about and yet your post has been voted up.
                It is amazing how much incorrect noise there is about Brexit.
                Leave the grown-ups to get on with it.

                • Martin

                  I requested from you which rules of the EU prevent us from trading with the rest of the world. As is usual for Brexit supporters – you can’t – you just refer to higher authority or some even throw out abuse.

                  There are a lot of success stories of companies exporting under the current EU rules.

                  But the fact is we currently have a gold plated trade agreement with 27 other countries. You, Boris, Gove and especially Fox have obviously never had to sell a product or service, especially to an overseas customer.

                  If you and they had, you and they would appreciate the large EU free home market, with a level playing field, no tariffs, no customs clearance costs, short delivery distances, no hidden (and therefore illegal non-tariff barriers), no bias in favour of a local firm and an obligation to pay the invoice in the same way that an invoice is raised and paid for to a UK based company with the same recourse through the courts if it is unpaid. In addition the EU has trade agreements with 43 other countries with varying levels of access negotiated on behalf of 550 million EU consumers. Our negotiating position wouldn’t be that good with only 60 million even if it was slightly more biased to just the requirements of the UK.

                  Just having an inter-governmental trade agreement doesn’t mean we suddenly sell loads to these countries. Every exporting company then would need to redirect its salespeople to get on planes to try to sell its products, from scratch, competing with local suppliers, whilst hoping to keep its workers busy in the meantime.

                  And yet, despite this, companies, with these so called restrictive rules, still sell products all around the world even hamstrung by payment guarantees, tariffs and non trade barriers such as local rules and regulations in areas such as conformity to local standards so to bias business in favour of home producers (and this still happens with a trade agreement).

                  I have heard nothing in what the ‘grown ups’ (Boris? A ‘grown up’) are saying to give me any confidence at all they know what they are doing or the consequences of their proposals and claims that will not lead to a net large reduction in exports of goods and services – and that will ultimately cost millions of jobs.

                  • James Taylor

                    Cynic_Rick has answered your question. If you cannot be bothered to read or respond to his posts in answer to your question, then I cannot help you further.

      • Polidorisghost

        “Moneyweek should interview a NHS trust and ask them how they are doing with their nurse recruitment. Or a construction company, or a …”

        Yup, it could also ask these organisations why they don’t train their own staff, instead of expecting third world countries to do it for them – This country isn’t exactly short of people looking for a decent job.

        • Horiboyable .

          I have contracted for the NHS a few times. I wont say much but it is not going to last.

        • Will Richardson

          They do but austerity and starving public services if the investment needed to meet increasing demand is the main problem. Most rich #OECD countries invest 10-12% of national income into public health. Ours us at 8% and planned to be cut to 6.6% in the next 3 years. That’s a huge gap or deficit of at least 25% of our current investment rate.

          • Polidorisghost

            “They do”
            But they don’t – That is the point.

      • Horiboyable .

        With a socialist it’s all about the money, money, money.

        What about sovereignty, what about justice?

        • Cynic_Rick

          “What about sovereignty, what about justice?”

          Flexcit has it covered; but it cannot be a quick fix

          http://www.eureferendum.com/documents/flexcit.pdf

          “Our Vision:

          “Our vision is of a self-governing United Kingdom, a self-confident, free-trading nation state, releasing the potential of its citizens through direct democratic control of both national and local government and providing maximum freedom and responsibility for its people.

          “The history of Britain for a thousand years has been as a merchant and maritime power playing its full role in European and world affairs while living under its own laws. It is our view that the UK can flourish again as an independent state trading both with our friends in the EU and the rest of Europe, while developing other relationships throughout the world as trading patterns evolve.

          “For an age, the United Kingdom has freely engaged as an independent country in alliances and treaties with other countries. It has a long history of entering into commercial agreements and conventions at an inter-governmental level. We wish to uphold that tradition.

          “The ability of the people of the United Kingdom to determine their own independent future and use their wealth of executive, legislative and judicial experience to help, inspire and shape political developments through international bodies, and to improve world trade and the wellbeing of all peoples will only be possible when they are free of the undemocratic and moribund European Union.

          “The prosperity of the people depends on being able to exercise the fundamental right and necessity of self-determination, thus taking control of their opportunities and destiny in an inter-governmental global future with the ability to swiftly correct and improve when errors occur.

          “Within the United Kingdom, our vision is for a government respectful of its people who will take on greater participation and control of their affairs at local and national level. Our vision fosters the responsibility of a sovereign people as the core of true democracy.”

          • Will Richardson

            Monetary Sovereignty is absolutely key as shown by the Eurozone institutionalised austerity and the mutually assured instability and stagnation pact.

            The main factor for wellbeing is investing in our research and applying it to more productive workers, paying them well enough so they can afford to buy the wealth of goods and services they produce.

            • Cynic_Rick

              The type of sovereignty mentioned in Flexcit’s “Our Vision“ is not particularly that of monetary issues but that of the people generally; the sovereignty of the people of the UK.

    • LG

      Me! Me! Ask me, sir!

      • Cynic_Rick

        Are you happy now?

  • LG

    I love the way Moneyweek does a challenge free interview. No assertion questioned, no claim or belief too wild.

  • DiverPhil

    Its just so easy and we didn’t know it, we are agonising about tariffs and lack of access to markets we have successfully developed over the last thirty years. The unreality of it all really frightens me including this clueless free market cheer leading mantra from Moneyweek, but hey I am OK and if it all goes down the pan you can get job at Weatherspoons at minimum wage and Moneyweek will still be spouting about this brave new world we are entering.

    • Horiboyable .

      Oh snowflake, what will we do? Act like man! We traded for hundreds of years without the EU.

      This is the smartest thing the UK has ever done. The EUEuro is in the process of collapse and these mediocre politicians will not hold this together, the die was cast many years ago. It is impossible to have a single currency without a single bond market, so by design they have sown their own failure. Politicians do it all the time, they try and force a political solution which is clearly an economic issue.

      Remember the 2007/8? We didn’t see it coming, no one saw it coming apparently although it was painted red and had bells all over it. What is coming will make 2008 look like a minor bump in the road, I positioned myself back in 2011/12 so bring it on. Pensions will vaporize, housing will go down 50%, very large job loses and if you need a picture go to Youtube and type in Greece Crisis because that is where Europe is heading, its not the first time and it wont be the last.

      Voltaire “Paper money eventually returns to its intrinsic value – zero”

      • Martin

        ‘We traded for hundreds of years without the EU.’ For those of us who remember the period before we joined the EU we were no longer exporting ‘like we used to do’. Our home market was too small so companies like British Leyland could no longer get critical mass like their EEC competitors including VW and Peugeot so they could not make enough cars to make enough money, couldn’t give pay rises to their work force and, hey presto, Red Robbo turned up and totally destroyed the whole company – end of UK owned car industry! Just an example. So we are going back to that? We certainly won’t be going further back to the industrial revolution era, that’s for sure.

        • Horiboyable .

          Lol Leyland!!! Look at the crap they use to produce, while Ford was producing the Escort, Cortina and Capri; who the hell would buy a Princess, Algro or a P76. I would not take one if it was given to me. Also the Unions back then were causing all sorts of trouble until Maggie came in and sorted it out. Very bad example.

          • Martin

            Actually it’s a very good example. I agree those cars were terrible and that was due to under investment – due to lack of sales. They were too small to make a profit – not enough critical mass for late 60’s early 70’s car production and had tariff barriers to all overseas markets. Red Robbo also came in due to disgruntled under paid workforce led by poor (i.e. underpaid) management. They couldn’t make a profit! (Maybe the Japanese told us something similar yesterday?) Ford, on the other hand, had big operations in Germany and other places so were able to fund good design and make good products because they could sell more cars from the same design in biiger quantities. This was true as well for many other industries. If you were around then you will remember all the big companies seemed to US owned and, one option discussed at the time, was to become the 51st state. Thank God that didn’t happen!

        • Will Richardson

          Amateur management possibly was and still is a factor.

  • Cynic_Rick

    Quote Tim Martin: “Leave the EU tomorrow.” A ‘no-deal’ Brexit.

    A leaked impact report mentioned in’ The Guardian’:

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/feb/07/brexit-north-east-west-midlands-hardest-secret-analysis

    is broached here:

    http://eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=86765

    “A no-deal Brexit, the paper is thus able to tell us, would blow an £80 billion hole in the public finances, based on the government having to borrow £120 billion more over the next 15 years, mitigated by £40 billion of gains from leaving the EU.

    “As always, such figures need to be taken with a pinch of salt. A full-blown kamikaze Brexit would doubtless cost the exchequer considerably more than an average of just over £5 billion year. The full £80 billion could be soaked up in the very first year.”

    Richard North goes on to say:

    “The report in fact looks at just three scenarios – the only three that really matter: the Single Market (Efta/EEA); the Free Trade Agreement; and the “no deal”. MPs who have seen the documents said they showed every region of the UK would be affected negatively whatever the outcome.”

    And

    “But, given that the evidence is stacking up that the Single Market presents the most favourable Brexit outcome, it is unsurprising that a number of MPs are pushing for this option The only surprise is that it’s taken so long for them to get organised.”

    • Will Richardson

      There is no need for a monetarily sovereign currency issuing government to borrow back the money it’s spending and investment outs into the economy.

      • Cynic_Rick

        Printing money willy-nilly doesn’t solve the problem, it ‘kicks it down the road’ where it accumulates into a bigger problem.

  • Martin

    Tom Martin and others are sadly mistaken if they think leaving the EU will reduce food prices. The fact is UK farming is only just viable with the current level of food prices and EU subsidies. If food prices drop to world levels farmers will simply give up and move to towns and cities and get a job in a factory (like in China). Farms will be vacated and all our food (not 50% as now) will have to be imported (anyone for GM cattle?) and our fields will lie fallow. Of course we could increase subsidies massively over what we have now, but then – no Brexit bonus! Maybe a few big operations will survive as they have the critical mass to compete with, say, US operations.

    • Cynic_Rick

      And a ‘No-deal’ Brexit leading to a free trade deal with the US would not just wipe out farmers:

      http://eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=86349

      “… I do know that producers would oppose the UK signing up to a free trade deal with the US – one that gives access to our market for agricultural goods. Not only the egg industry would be wiped out. Beef and milk producers would also go, alongside poultry meat and pig producers, plus many others. Meanwhile, a trade deal with New Zealand could wipe out UK lamb production.

      “Unsurprisingly, a trade deal with the US is not going to happen. By the time the Guardian and others have finished with their exposés on US livestock welfare standards, with cattle crammed in feedlots of a 100,000 or more head (pictured), there is no way a British public is going to accept US produce. And if we did, we would find it very difficult to export manufactured food products to EU Member States unless we could guarantee exclusion of US imports.”

      It would also make it very difficult to export manufactured goods to the EU.

      • Will Richardson

        Food insecurity is quite a problem now and historically.

        • Cynic_Rick

          “Food insecurity” due to a botched Brexit is avoidable by avoiding a botched Brexit.

  • Martin

    I can see what’s potentially in Brexit for Tim Martin’s business. But then he doesn’t export some or most of his product or service into a very large free market, with a level playing field, no tariffs, no customs clearance costs, no hidden (and therefore illegal non tariff barriers), no bias in favour of a local firm and an obligation to pay the invoice in the same way that an invoice is raised and paid for to a based UK company with the same recourse if there is no payment? In addition there are 70 other countries we can export to on the back of free trade agreements the EU has with them. Mind you, if those people who work for all these companies that do export lose their jobs or reduced pay then his pubs will not be too pretty!

    • Cynic_Rick

      “… if those people who work for all these companies that do export lose their jobs or reduced pay then his pubs will not be too pretty!”

      True. Nice one!

      • Will Richardson

        Who will buy the goods and services produced by robots too? Mass consumption depends on well paid mass employment.

        • Cynic_Rick

          The relevance to this article is that it’s a botched Brexit we’re wanting to avoid.

  • Richard Kives

    Why are people humoring this disingenuous goon?

  • Chris Kubicki

    Nobody can deny that Martin knows a thing or two about running pubs but he seems to be totally ignorant of matters pertaining to the Global Economy. He claims that EU has failed to secure Trade agreements with the top 10 Economies in the World but doesn’t seem to recognise that 4 of them are in the EU – UK, Germany, France, Italy and that a deal is in process with a fifth Japan. If we exclude the EU countries from the list then in drop South Korea & Turkey, both have Free Trade Agreements with the EU.

    His enthusiasm for Free Trade in Agriculture might be based rather more on self-interest than concern for the common man. It would certainly benefit the bottom line of Weatherspoons but equally certainly destroy the UK Farming industry over night.

    This is yet another example of Rambling Tim Martin talking to the media and not worthy of this Journal.

    • Lexikologist

      Tim Martin also overlooks the fact that the EU is the world’s single largest market and one could easily say of countries/economic unions that do not have FTAs with the EU that they have been the ones to fail at securing a trade agreement with the world’s largest economy. For example, the South American Mercosur, where negotiations with the EU have often stalled because of their political problems and also the EU is dissatisfied with some of the terms they propose (e.g. on beef exports to the EU, so that European farmers don’t go bust).
      Also, China has been chasing the EU for an FTA for a while, but there is a reason the EU is not desperate for one – because China will probably want to have measures that are damaging for EU industry, while at the same time keeping much of their market very closed.
      The EU has huge leverage in such negotiations, the UK will have very little. China and Trump (who says he prefers bilateral FTAs rather than multinational ones because if you don’t like the agreement you can just walk away) will eat the UK for breakfast.
      I would disagree with you about Martin’s skills as a publican. He knows how to run trashy pubs, not decent ones.

  • AJAX

    Eu-citizens should not be en masse given British citizenship – the foreign demograpic immigration invasion of England must be stopped, & the abolition of tariffs unilaterally would invite the liquidation of England manufacturing & agricultural sectors by the foreign competitors – not a great idea. Agreed on stopping paying taxes to Frankfurt immediately. Being right 1 x out of 3 isn’t great, but it could be worse Martin.

    • Lexikologist

      But any attempt to have a trade deal with the US or even Australia or New Zealand will lead to the decimation of British agriculture. So, exactly what are these wonderful trade deals that Brexiters believe that the UK can achieve outside of the EU?

  • What a meddling idiot this man is.