Ulster-born JD Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin backs Brexit 'to restore democracy'
The Northern Irish boss of one of the UK's biggest pub chains supports leaving the EU, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
Tim Martin - the outspoken chairman of JD Wetherspoon - said leaving the union would restore "democracy" to decision-making in the UK.
The Campbell College past pupil also told the Belfast Telegraph he had not ruled out campaigning for a Brexit.
"I have to put all my ducks in a row before I join any campaign, but 15 years ago I campaigned against Britain joining the euro, and that turned out to be a good decision," Mr Martin said.
"My key feeling on a Brexit is that democracy is the key issue. When people sit back and think about it, they will see what the EU has become compared to the first ideas for the common market.
"The EU is non-democratic in so many ways. I am more in favour of decision-making by a national parliament, so that has to make me in favour of Brexit."
Mr Martin also insisted that Northern Ireland would not lose out in the event of a Brexit by sharing a border with the Republic, an EU country.
"The two countries already have totally different laws," the pubs boss said, adding he did not think that the organisation was beneficial to business.
"You don't need to the EU to run a successful business or to have a successful economy," Mr Martin insisted.
"Both Norway and Switzerland are two of the richest countries. They aren't in the EU. Neil Woodford, the highly respected fund manager, has said that, in his view, it (leaving the union) won't make a difference to the level of prosperity, but I think Britain will be a more prosperous place if it can take back control of its own laws."
Mr Martin also told how he believed that cordial business relationships would continue with the EU even if the public backs leaving in the referendum.
"My instinct is we should be friends with the EU," he said. "We will still be one of their biggest customers and they will still be among our biggest customers."
Mr Martin's pro-Brexit stance puts him at odds with around 200 business leaders - including the bosses of Airbus, Gatwick Airport and Asda - who pledged themselves in favour of staying in a reformed EU in an open letter to The Times yesterday.
Wetherspoon's operates nine pubs in Northern Ireland and has another two Belfast pubs - on University Road and on Royal Avenue - in the planning.
Altogether, the chain has around 900 bars across the UK and Republic of Ireland.