Belfast Telegraph

JD Wetherspoon boss blasts CBI over Brexit as sales rise

The chairman of JD Wetherspoon has cheered a healthy jump in quarterly sales, but took a swipe at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) over the lobby group's stance on Brexit.

Tim Martin said like-for-like sales jumped 4% in the third quarter to April 23 this year, while total sales lifted by 1.3%.

He warned that the firm "remains cautious" over the second half of the financial year as it grapples with "significantly higher costs" from business rates, utility taxes, excise duty and labour.

The update came as Mr Martin issued a broadside against the CBI, claiming the group was dishing out "foolhardy advice" to the Government over its efforts to secure a Brexit deal with the European Union.

He said: " Carolyn Fairbairn of the CBI has recently said that 'leaving the negotiating table without a deal shouldn't be Plan B, but Plan Z'.

"It is doubtful if Ms Fairbairn has ever been involved in serious business negotiations herself, since this is the same as a housebuyer saying to a seller, 'I must have your house at any cost'.

"In this case the buyer will not pay the market price, but will pay the maximum that the seller believes he can afford. It is hard to believe that such foolhardy advice could emanate from a business organisation."

Mr Martin said it was "essential" to promote the UK's willingness to trade on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules and possibly "abolish import tariffs unilaterally".

He said such a move would lead to a sharp drop in consumer prices and boost living standards.

"The current desperation of the CBI and others for a 'deal' is only encouraging the absurd posturing of the unelected 'President' Juncker and his acolytes, and creates an absurdly pessimistic picture of the UK's position if a sensible deal is not forthcoming," he added.

"As EU businesses know, they will suffer acutely if UK companies and consumers switch their allegiance to domestic or other non-EU suppliers.

"The CBI should let those businesses make the case for a free trade deal, rather than undermining the Government's negotiating position."

Focusing on the the pub group's performance, Mr Martin said the firm was pencilling in a "slightly improved trading outcome" for the current financial year thanks to better-than-expected year-to-date sales.

The firm said year-to-date like-for-like sales had risen by 3.5% and total sales were up 1.4%.

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