Brexit: Wetherspoon’s attacks IMF, OECD, and UK press
Tim Martin criticises ‘misleading and incorrect’ statements on UK’s exit from EU
JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin was heavily critical of a number of institutions for their Brexit stance.
Mr Martin made the remarks on Wednesday as part of a trading update ahead of its interim results for the six months ending January 28th, 2018, which are expected to be announced on March 16th, 2018.
The chain, which operates more than 900 pubs in Britain, as well as four in Dublin and one in Cork, increased like-for-like sales by 6 per cent and total sales by 4.3 per cent for the first 12 weeks of the second quarter to January 21st, 2018.
However, Mr Martin, who is a staunch advocate of Brexit, was heavily critical of a number of institutions for the stance they have adopted on the matter.
“Most economists, business organisations and universities made extremely pessimistic forecasts about the immediate aftermath of a leave vote in the referendum, which have proven to be highly inaccurate,” he said.
“The treasury, the IMF and the OECD were also key participants in this chorus. Their erroneous views lend weight to Warren Buffett’s aphorism that most forecasts tell you a lot about the forecaster, but nothing about the future.
‘Highly misleading information’
“In Wetherspoon’s last update, I said that the Confederation of British Industry, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and the chairmen of Whitbread and Sainsbury’s had issued factually incorrect and highly misleading information about food price rises, post Brexit, which had been reported as if they were true in publications such as the Financial Times, the Sunday Times and the Guardian.
“None of these individuals or organisations has contested the truth of the criticisms. If this misleading information were true, it could have a damaging effect on Wetherspoon, similar businesses and the public – but it is not.”
“By refusing to acknowledge the fact that food prices will be reduced, post Brexit, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal and parliament votes to eliminate taxes which are currently imposed on non-EU food imports, the CBI and the BRC are trying to fool the public and MPs and bringing business into disrepute.”
These “factually incorrect scare stories”, he said, “seem to be designed to convince the public that a deal is necessary to avoid a cliff edge”.
“In fact, the cliff edge is a myth,” he continued. “There is almost no action needed, for most companies, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
“Provided that parliament takes sensible steps, such as the elimination of food taxes, the public will benefit from lower food prices, from regained fishing rights and from savings of about £200 million per week of EU contributions.”
In terms of current trading, JD Wetherspoon said underlying profit before tax was “slightly ahead of our expectations”. However, similar outperformance in the second half of the year “will be more difficult to achieve”.
Since the start of the financial year, the company has opened three new pubs and sold 10. It said it intends to open approximately 10 pubs in the current financial year.
It remains in a “sound financial position”. Net debt, at the end of the financial year, is currently expected to be around £30 million higher than the level at the last financial year end.