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Pub Juggernaut Wetherspoons Launches Another PR Bid With No Basis in Fact

Tim Martin says he can make prices “unbelievably low” if the U.K. leaves the E.U. on 31 October — but the numbers don’t add up

Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin with Boris Johnson in a London Wetherspoons before the EU elections Photo by Henry Nicholls WPA Pool/Getty Images

Tim Martin, the chief executive of U.K. pub chain JD Wetherspoon, has claimed he will be able to slash his beer prices to “an unbelievable low” in celebration of Britain leaving the E.U. on 31 October 2019. That is, if Britain does leave the E.U. on 31 October 2019. Martin, who has previously blamed those who voted remain in the 2016 referendum for JD Wetherspoon’s profits falling, claims that the price cut will only go ahead if the country can “leave properly, Boris Johnson. No messing around with customs union or any of that funny stuff,” according to I News.

Martin’s claim is predicated on the fact that tariffs charged by the EU at the border on wine will drop to zero percent in the event of a no deal Brexit. What Martin’s claim is not predicated on, however, is the following: Taking Australian and New Zealand wines as an example, the EU tariff of 6.5 — 8 pence per bottle is 27 times lower than the excise duty imposed by the U.K. government, which sits at £2.16. There is a zero tariff free trade agreement on Chilean wine; a considerable proportion of South African wine carries no tariff. The fall in the value of sterling since the Brexit referendum, which hit its lowest level in 28 months at the end of July, will have a greater effect on import prices than the “gain” from losing EU tariffs.

Martin might be able to afford slashing beer prices, even though whatever financial cushion permits that cut would be better spent on paying his staff a living wage. But he won’t be doing it thanks to “freedom” from the E.U.