Tim Martin hits back over Pete Brown's Brexit beer mat slam

By Georgina Townshend contact

- Last updated on GMT

'Big business': Tim Martin claims his Brexit beer mats are helping inform the general public
'Big business': Tim Martin claims his Brexit beer mats are helping inform the general public

Related tags: Food prices, European union, World trade organization, International trade

JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has hit back over The Morning Advertiser columnist Pete Brown chastising the pub giant's Brexit beer mats.

Last week, Brown discussed his issue, not with Martin’s politics over Brexit, but in his using his pub estate to campaign​ for his point of view with Brexit beer mats.

A total of 500,000 of the mats are to be used in Wetherspoon's 893 UK sites, which state that big business has "attempted to fool the British public"​ in saying that food prices will rise without a deal with the EU, arguing that the EU imposes high tariffs on non-EU food imports, which keeps prices high.

Brown wrote in his column: "By politicising his pubs in this way, Tim Martin has violated the sanctity of the boozer. Polling data suggests that in any given branch, about half the drinkers will agree with him and half won’t. Or rather, taking turnout into account, about a third will agree, a third disagree, and a third won’t give a toss either way."

Martin has now responded to Brown's column, and insists that his beer mats, although they may be "testing Brown's patience" are "showing the truth" to the public. 

'Misleading press releases'

Martin's full response to Brown is:

"Renowned beer writer Pete Brown, a regular at Wetherspoon’s Rochester Castle in north London, has taken umbrage at our beer mats in an article in the trade press.

"The mats berate the CBI and the British Retail Consortium (BRC), business organisations, as well as the chairmen of Whitbread and Sainsbury’s, for a series of deeply misleading press releases and articles which  said, for example, that food prices would automatically rise “by up to 22%” if the UK left the EU without a ‘deal’.

"These misrepresentations seem designed to alarm the public, press and MPs, thereby pressurising the Government. The FT​, Sunday Times​, Guardian​ and Evening Standard​, among many others, consequently ran alarmist stories about food prices. Labour MP Chuka Umunna, relying on the misinformation, gave the same message to Jeremy Vine’s audience of several million on Radio 2.

"In fact, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal in March 2019, parliament has the power, under WTO rules, to eliminate the tariffs that the EU currently charges on food imports from non-EU countries. According to those rules, tariffs cannot then be charged for EU imports either so food prices in the UK would actually fall. A public realisation of lower food prices without a deal is, of course, kryptonite for the CBI/BRC case, as they are painfully aware.

"The trenchant messages in the beer mats have also been expressed by Wetherspoon in press articles and in radio and TV interviews. There has not been even a hint of denial from any of these organisations or individuals in spite of the serious allegations. 

"The obvious reason for the lack of denial is that the assertions about the potential for reduced food prices under WTO rules are entirely true, as most people now accept. 

"However, the absence of truth in their scare stories hasn’t deterred the BRC, at least, from repeating the same falsehoods. Its PR goons issued a press release on Boxing Day with “new evidence”,  which said that, without a deal,  “... from... 30 March 2019... imported goods will be subject to higher tariffs...  (which) inevitably mean consumers would face higher prices... as staple products such as fruit, vegetables, fish and clothes would be hardest hit.” 

High-class people

"Pete, you can see we’re not dealing with high-class people here.

"In this allegedly post-truth world, it is usually, of course, the press that acts as the bastion of democracy, querying political propaganda. But what do you do when large sections of the press have been hoodwinked by organisations that appear hellbent on patronising and fooling the public?

"Wetherspoon gave the answer on our beer mats and Pete, like the CBI, is not contesting the truth of the accusations but, perhaps understandably, prefers the falsehoods to be corrected elsewhere, so as to preserve the equilibrium and the convivial sanctum of the pub.

"In contrast, most customers surely want the truth, especially in respect of a vital matter such as food prices, and so will accept our unconventional means of communication, once in a while. 

"We may be testing Pete’s patience but the truth matters and, in a democracy, the public will decide."

Related topics: JD Wetherspoon

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