The chairman of one of Britain’s largest pub chains and one of the most vocal business leaders on the Leave campaign attacked the “absurd posturing” of the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
Tim Martin, the founder of the near ubiquitous JD Wetherspoon pub brand used the company’s latest trading update to once again rail against Juncker, saying that recent “foolhardy advice” given to the British government by pro-Remain business groups about any Brexit deal is “encouraging” Juncker’s hard stance.
“A number of individuals and organisations, which previously supported UK membership of the euro and its disastrous predecessor the ERM, and who recently promoted the erroneous view of a severe economic downturn in the immediate aftermath of a leave vote in the referendum, are again offering the government advice,” Martin said in the “Outlook” section of Wetherspoons’ trading update.
“For example, Carolyn Fairbairn of the CBI has recently said that ‘leaving the negotiating table without a deal shouldn’t be Plan B, but Plan Z’,” he added.
“It is doubtful if Ms Fairbairn has ever been involved in serious business negotiations herself, since this is the same as a housebuyer saying to a seller, ‘I must have your house at any cost’. In this case the buyer will not pay the market price, but will pay the maximum that the seller believes he can afford.
“It is hard to believe that such foolhardy advice could emanate from a business organisation.”
Martin continued by arguing such standpoints are effectively giving the EU’s key Brexit negotiators the upper hand in talks before they have even begun,
“The current desperation of the CBI and others for a ‘deal’ is only encouraging the absurd posturing of the unelected ‘President’ Juncker and his acolytes, and creates an absurdly pessimistic picture of the UK’s position if a sensible deal is not forthcoming,” he said.
The comments come just days after a dinner between Prime Minister Theresa May and Juncker at Downing Street after which Juncker was reported to have said he was “10 times more sceptical than I was before” about the possibility of sealing a deal on EU divorce terms for Britain and a new trading relationship.
Away from Martin’s comments, Wetherspoons update for trading in the third quarter was largely pretty positive, with the firm reporting an increase in like-for-like sales of 4% in the 13 weeks to April 23, while total sales gained 1.3%. The firm’s operating margin was 7.3% over the quarter, compared with 6.4% in the same period last year.
Those positive figures have sent Wetherspoons shares — which are listed on the mid-cap FTSE 250 index — upwards on Wednesday morning, climbing more than 2%, as the chart below illustrates: