LONDON (AFP) – The boss of popular British pub chain Wetherspoon on Friday mocked critics who had forecast economic disaster in the event of Brexit — and called on the government to scrap trade talks.
Tim Martin, founder and chairman of JD Wetherspoon, was a vocal Brexit supporter and “Leave” campaign donor in the run-up to Britain’s shock June 23 referendum to leave the European Union, even printing special anti-EU beer mats for punters.
London-listed JD Wetherspoon is one of the country’s biggest pub chains, with almost one thousand pubs and around 35,000 employees.
Many experts during the referendum campaign “forecast trouble, often in lurid terms, for the economy, in the event of the Leave vote,” Martin wrote in the company’s annual results statement.
“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.”
So far, most economic indicators have indicated that the British economy is faring better than thought following the Brexit vote, although recent manufacturing data showed a slump in activity in July.
Wetherspoon reported that pre-tax profit rose 3.6 percent to £80.6 million ($107 million, 95 million euros) in the group’s 2015/2016 financial year ending July 24.
Revenues swelled 5.4 percent to almost £1.6 billion.
Martin, who owns 29 percent of the pub company he founded in 1979, also argued Friday that Britain did not need a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU.
“Common sense… suggests that the worst approach for the UK is to insist on the necessity of a ‘deal’ – we don’t need one and the fact that EU countries sell us twice as much as we sell them creates a hugely powerful negotiating position,” he wrote.
Martin was a major funder of the official Vote Leave campaign, donating £200,000 (252,000 euros, $283,000) to the cause.
However, he did disagree on one of their key policies — cutting the immigration of EU workers — arguing that Britain has benefited from migration from European countries.
An estimated five percent of his 35,000 staff are from other parts of the European Union.