The Brexit-supporting head of JD Wetherspoon, the UK’s largest pub chain, has hit out at European Union (EU) officials for “bullying” British business and threatening the imposition of punitive tariffs after the Brexit vote.
Tim Martin argued European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker was pressuring European firms to take a hostile attitude to trading with the British and was getting in the way of productive trade talks.
He said the UK was in a stronger position than people thought, and the EU’s stance would put sales of European champagne, German beer, and Swedish cider to UK consumers “at extreme risk”, The Telegraph reports.
“Wetherspoon normally agrees on trade deals with suppliers for three to 10 years. If we, and companies like ours, are unable to agree on tariff-free transactions, it will inevitably result in a loss of business for European companies which have done nothing to deserve this outcome,” he said.
“The ultimate sanction will be in the hands of UK consumers, should they take offence at the hectoring and bullying approach of Juncker and co. French wine, Champagne and spirits, German beer and Swedish cider, for example, are all at extreme risk,” he added.
Mr. Juncker has been accused of playing “hardball” after he banned discussion of the UK’s future relationship with the EU until Article 50 is triggered, and appointed known anti-British figures to lead the negotiations.
Former Belgium Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt – who called British leaders “rats fleeing a sinking ship” after the vote – will be joined by Michel Barnier, an arch-federalist who reportedly holds a grudge against the UK, to lead the talks.
Mr. Verhofstadt has also said that if the UK “wants access to [the] Single Market, it must also accept the free movement of citizens” and demanded that “Brexit should be delivered before 2019”.
Wetherspoon said like-for-like sales in the 13 weeks to October 23 rose 3.5 per cent, however the figureslowed to 2.3 per cent in the last five weeks of the period.
“Now that the gloomy economic forecasts for the immediate aftermath of the referendum have been proven to be false, ‘Scare Story 2’ is that failure to agree on a trade deal with the EU will have devastating consequences”, Mr. Martin commented on the 9th of September.