Friday 23 February 2018

'Harsh' Brexit will hurt French wine and German beer sales, says Wetherspoon boss

Tim Martin, of Wetherspoons at The Three Tun Tavern, Blackrock
Tim Martin, of Wetherspoons at The Three Tun Tavern, Blackrock

A "bullying" approach by European leaders over Brexit risks hurting sales of French wine, German beer and Swedish cider, the founder of British pubs chain JD Wetherspoon, a prominent Leave campaigner, said yesterday.

The warning came as the group, which operates more than 900 pubs mainly in the UK but including five in the Republic, said strong sales growth in the summer had slowed in recent weeks, and it faced rising costs, sending its shares lower yesterday.

Company chairman Tim Martin said a call from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker last month for a firm stance in Brexit talks could backfire.

"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, using a company trading statement to make his point.

"Indeed, 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."

The group said it normally agrees on trade deals with suppliers for between three and 10 years.

Like other British businesses, it faces higher import prices following the slide in the value of the pound. Sterling has lost around 15pc against the euro since the referendum.

Tim Martin was a high-profile Brexit campaigner, appearing in television debates before the June 23 vote and the company distributed half a million beer mats challenging statistics used by the British government to back the 'Remain' campaign.

Shares in the group fell to three-month lows, down 6.1pc at 833.5 pence yesterday. (Reuters)

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