Tim Martin accuses CBI and BRC of ‘trying to fool the public and MPs’

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

Shots fired: Tim Martin took aim at the CBI and BRC in comments accompanying JDW's second quarter trading update
Shots fired: Tim Martin took aim at the CBI and BRC in comments accompanying JDW's second quarter trading update

Related tags Food prices European union

JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin made claims against the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) in the pub giant’s second quarter trading update – which yielded better-than-expected sales and underlying profit ahead of expectations.

Martin commented: “In Wetherspoon’s last update, I said that the CBI, the 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.”

Sounding out 'scare stories'

Martin went on to re-iterate his belief that food prices will not increase​ in the wake of Britain’s departure from the European Union, denouncing arguments to the contrary and naming a handful of stories he believed to be promoting the food price-rise myth from media outlets such as The Sunday Times​, The Guardian​, and the Financial Times​.

“These factually incorrect scare stories​ 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. 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 £200m per week of EU contributions.

“Many people, including journalists and MPs, trust information from established organisations such as the CBI and the BRC – and many have been persuaded that food prices will rise if we leave the EU and the Customs Union. It should be emphasised that it is untrue and that the Customs Union, like the Corn Laws abolished nearly 200 years ago, keeps food prices at artificially high levels.”

Martin had previously commented that he believed JD Wetherspoon was 'ready to leave the EU'​. 

Pessimistic 'chorus' 

Citing business magnate Warren Buffett, Martin also took aim at negativity that has engulfed post-referendum forecasting.

“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.

“The Treasury, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) 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.”

Strong quarterly growth

JDW’s current trading update revealed that for the first 12 weeks of the second quarter – to 21 January 2018 – like-for-like sales increased by 6% and total sales by 4.3%. Increases in the year-to-date – 25 weeks to 21 January 2018 – were also 6% for like-for-like sales and 4.3% for total sales.

Martin commented: “As regards Wetherspoon’s performance, sales in the second quarter to date matched the strong growth of the first quarter. In the second half of the year, sales comparatives will be more difficult.

“We face significant costs in the second half in areas that include labour, business rates and the sugar tax. There will also be some uncertainty as to the effects on our business of the FIFA World Cup.

“Nevertheless, given better-than-expected year-to-date sales, we currently anticipate a slightly improved trading outcome for this financial year.”

Since the start of the year JDW has opened three new pubs, sold 10 and has plans to open approximately 10 new sites in the current financial year. The company has spent £15m on buying the freeholds of pubs of which they were previously tenants, and has bought back £51m of shares during the current financial year. 

Related topics JD Wetherspoon

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