Belfast Telegraph

Wetherspoon pubs boss Martin rejects deal, but it's welcomed by local food industry

Tim Martin (Aaron Chown/PA)
Tim Martin (Aaron Chown/PA)
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

Pub boss Tim Martin, one of business's most outspoken Brexiteers, has urged MPs to reject the draft EU withdrawal agreement.

Wetherspoon chairman Mr Martin, who spent part of his life in Northern Ireland and has four pubs here, also called on Theresa May to stand down as Prime Minister.

He said a no-deal Brexit was preferable to the draft agreement on the table. "I'm in favour of a common market, but the EU is guilty of overreach. It's become a law-making entity with no democratic credentials," he added.

He also claimed leaving on a no-deal basis would cut prices in shops because the UK would be able to reduce tariffs on imports from other territories such as America and India "to zero".

"We can regain control of our fishing and avoid paying £39bn on a divorce deal, which is £600 per person in Northern Ireland," he said. "I think the draft withdrawal agreement should be voted down without hesitation. It's a trap which keeps the UK in an undemocratic institution."

He also said the Prime Minister should quit because she had shown she was "not a winner".

"She supported the Remain side and lost," Mr Martin stressed. "She supported the ideas of David Cameron and George Osborne, who said that in the year or two after a Leave vote the economy would go down. That didn't happen."

"She called an election in 2017 and lost her majority. She said she was going to negotiate a deal which took us out of the customs union and the single market, but she's failed."

However, the head of an organisation representing the food industry here welcomed the draft Brexit withdrawal agreement.

Brian Irwin, chairman of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA), said the industry "must be clear on the fact that a no-deal outcome would be disastrous, particularly for the agri-food sector".

"We simply could not absorb increased customs, tariffs and regulatory costs on trade between Northern Ireland and the EU," he added.

Speaking at NIFDA's annual dinner last night, Mr Irwin, who is also a director of Irwin's Bakery in Portadown, also said: "While this agreement may not be perfect, and further clarification on certain aspects will be required, it is vastly preferable to a no-deal scenario.

"It offers us an effective insurance policy in the interim period until a new trading relationship is agreed.

"A UK-wide solution that avoids a hard border and allows Northern Irish firms frictionless access to markets in Britain, the Republic of Ireland and the European Union offers our members the best chance of surviving in a post-Brexit world."

Belfast Telegraph