Wednesday, 1 November 2017

A knight in shining amour?

With the government’s disastrous Brexit strategy disintegrating before their very eyes, who better to come charging to the rescue than mullet-haired Tim Martin; arch Brexiter and chairman of J D Wetherspoon.

Martin, of course, was one of the few British business leaders to back the Leave Campaign, and during the EU referendum campaign distributed hundreds of thousands of pro-Brexit beer mats to the group’s pubs. So today’s announcement, via Twitter, that, “We've placed 500,000 beer mats in our pubs with a hard-hitting message on Brexit to parliament”, hardly comes as a surprise. The mats list three points in what the group describe as “The Wetherspoon Manifesto”.

It states that the UK should unilaterally grant rights of citizenship to legal EU immigrants.

Additionally, it points to the fact that the EU currently charges taxes on food imported from outside the EU, and that from 2019 the government can and should eliminate these import taxes- which will also mean that EU food imports will continue to be tax-free. Wetherspoon argues that this will result in a reduction in food prices in shops and pubs.

The manifesto also says that from March 2019 the government should stop paying the EU £200 million per week, stressing that the money disappears into EU coffers which have not been audited properly since 1994.

The first point makes perfect sense, as it is high time Theresa May’s government stopped using the large number of EU migrants who have, quite legitimately, made their home in Britain, as "bargaining chips" in their increasingly fraught Brexit negotiations with the European Union.  These people have contributed to the UK economy, as well as paying taxes here, and the uncertainty they have faced as a result of “Call me Dave’s” reckless referendum gamble, is unacceptable in a civilised society.

The last point about the EU accounts being un-audited, it blatantly untrue, but continues to be bandied about by increasingly desperate pro-Leave Campaigners.

According to the BBC, The EU's accounts are scrutinised by the Court of Auditors, which checks whether they correctly reflect the spending of the EU budget. The latest report, published in 2015 for accounts in 2014, explicitly said that the auditors were "signing off the accounts" as they have done every year since 2007”.

The middle point about food prices seems totally at odds with a claim made by the chairman of Sainsbury's, who recently told the Sunday Times that imported food prices could rise by 22% without a 'deal' with the EU. Similar claims have been made by the CBI and other organisations.

Whatever views they might have on Brexit, many have called into question the wisdom of mixing beer with politics, as numerous comments on Twitter have pointed out. The cynics amongst us might also argue that the largest two groups amongst Mr Martin’s customers (pensioners and the work-shy), are also those who voted in large numbers for Brexit.

Tim is, in effect, preaching to the converted, but is no doubt anxious to keep these two groups on board, in spite of the obvious hit the UK economy and living standards have already taken, since last year’s referendum result. It’s difficult to say what his motives are, but like those of the government, they’re probably not altruistic.

The final words on this matter can be neatly summed up by the man who started this nonsense, and whose memory is commemorated by the Blue Plaque above.


john lamb said...

Beer has always been mixed with politics,producers,retailers and drinkers of beer are major tax payers and their comments frequently move into politics for example the Campaign for Real Ale's representations concerning non domestic rates and pubs. The comments that people involved with beer should somehow keep out of politics defies reality or may be what the comments really mean is that comments or campaigns should not be made or take place in respect of issues where others are not in agreement with the issues raised. By the way Whetherspoons customers do not consist solely of old people and the 'work shy'

Curmudgeon said...

I note there hasn't been the same level of complaint about BrewDog's distinctly hypocritical climate change campaign, which surely falls into exactly the same category.

Paul Bailey said...

john, I merely said pensioners and the work-shy constitute the largest two groups amongst Wetherspoons customers; at no point did I use the word “solely”.

Why not write a piece about Brew Dog then Mudge, if you feel the balance needs addressing. My post about Spoons was more an observation than an out and out criticism, and I actually agreed with the first point on their so-called manifesto.

Syd Differential said...

Oh the irony of a remoaning beer blogger cautioning about mixing beer and politics in a beer blog about Brexit.
And one that's filled with the typical whiney deceit practised by the likes of Nick " I lost my seat to a clown that even the Labour Party is disowning " Clegg.
The beer mat does not say EU accounts are unaudited - it says they are not audited properly.
The EU Court of Auditors "signs off " the EU accounts every year but also in every single year except 2016 warned of "significant " and material errors.
Imagine a public company telling shareholders the accounts are fine but actually riddled with significant errors but hey don't fret 'cos you're paying for them.
The talks have made some progress but there's still a long way to go - that's what happens when two sides are trying to hammer out a deal.
But a " disastrous Brexit strategy disintegrating before their very eyes "?
They're negotiating - not caving in at the first whiff of cordite which is what many Remain quislings wish to do.
As for Timbo he backed Leave when few in industry dared stick their head above the parapet.
And funnily enough I reckon he knows a fair bit about the cost of food and drink in his sector.
And certainly enough to know many more customers than pensioners and the work-shy contribute towards the huge success of his business.
Such lazy and sanctimonious condescension by the smuggerati is exactly why Leave lost in the first place.
Get over it.

Syd Differential said...

Or indeed remain !

Curmudgeon said...

@Paul - I was making a general point, not specifically referring to you.

But it's undobutedly true that people who say "keep politics out of beer, sport or whatever" usually tend to be referring only to the kind of politics they disagree with.

Paul Bailey said...

Syd, if I had a pound for every time I’ve been told to “get over it”, by a gloating Brexiter, I’d be a rich man. The painful truth is there are no winners following the referendum, only losers and, as recent economic news demonstrates all too painfully, the biggest loser is the country as a whole.

My generalisation of Wetherspoons customers relates primarily to what I observe from my visits to Spoons. These days I use Mr Martin’s establishments far more as somewhere to grab a cheap breakfast, rather than a place to drink in, and the early morning clientele does constitute people of advancing years.

I accept my comment about the “work-shy”, was both harsh and somewhat unfair, especially as there are often contractors and construction workers breakfasting at the same time as me, but go into any Spoons on a regular basis, and you will notice a hard core of drinkers who are in there from the off, necking back pints of Stella from 9am onwards. This is not a normal lifestyle by any stretch of the imagination and, whilst not wishing to come across as judgmental, these people obviously have problem, which are way beyond the scope of this blog.

I do not dispute the fact that Tim Martin is an extremely successful businessman, who has taken the traditional pub model, kept the best bits and then turned the rest of it on its head. I also fully accept his right to spend his money, as he sees fit, in pursuit of his broader political aims when he feels necessary. If this means flooding his pubs with pro-Brexit beer mats, then so be it.

However, I also support the right of people like myself to counter his arguments with points of my own; especially when we see the damage forecast prior to the referendum, having such a disastrous effect, not just on living standards and the UK economy, but on our overall standing in the world.

I work in a science and technology-based sector, which relies on close cooperation with our European partners, and also on continued access to the Single Market and us remaining in the Customs Union. When an unholy alliance of right-wing politicians, newspaper proprietors seek to remove us from an institution, which has served this country well for the past 43 years, I and many others are rightly angry. Political dogma is taking precedence over economics and sound business sense.

The Leave campaign lied to voters and lied badly; making rash promises of a better future which are proving impossible to deliver. For the past three decades or more certain newspapers have pumped out an almost daily tirade of anti-EU rhetoric and this, coupled with the false promises of people like Davis, Gove, Johnson and Fox, is why the country finds itself in such a mess.

So no smug condescension from this writer, just someone observing with great sadness, the all to evident decline of our once great nation. By continuing to bang the drum for Brexit, it is Mr Martin who is showing himself as out of touch with events, and increasingly with public opinion.

Syd Differential said...

Ah,the old " 17 million thick people were duped by right-wing politicians and the evil press barons together with the lying Leavers into voting against their principles " trope.
Again,it's the utter condescension you display towards people who have a different opinion to you.
How about Remain lies ?
You know - the emergency budget that would be needed immediately at a Leave vote with the country plunged into recession,thousands of jobs in the City being being moved abroad and hundreds of thousands of redundancies.
Let'e see now - record inward investment with the UK still the most popular place in Europe for it,including Germany.
Virtually full employment with the best unemployment figures for nearly half a century.
Not a single major financial institution planning to decamp from the City.
The plain fact is no-one could predict with any accuracy what would happen after Brexit because it's a unique situation this country is now in.
But I have a higher opinion of Britain's ability to forge a new future than you appear to have.
And in that respect I feel sorry for you.

Paul Bailey said...

"But I have a higher opinion of Britain's ability to forge a new future than you appear to have".

Well good for you, Mr Differential. Events will prove one of us right; we’ll just have to see which one. In the meantime I’ve got better things to do than argue with a person who hides behind a pseudonym. And by the way, I certainly don’t need your sympathy, or anyone else’s for that matter!