JD Wetherspoon boosts sales, remains cautious, lashes out over Brexit (again)

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Tim Martin, chairman of pubs chain JD Wetherspoon, is in familiar form.

In a trading update on Wednesday, the watering hole specialist said it had raised like-for-like sales by a surprisingly rosy 4 per cent in the three months ending in April. But Mr Martin reiterated that the company is expecting “significantly higher costs in the second half of the financial year, mainly for business rates, utility taxes, excise duty and labour. In view of these costs and stronger sales comparisons, the company remains cautious about the second half of the year.”

The company will need to keep up the current pace of sales growth to maintain profit levels with those higher costs, it said.

And in a typical refrain Mr Martin – the architect of the ‘beermats for Brexit’ campaign and the author of the ‘new Brexit Magna Carta’ – turns his ire on perceived opponents. Today, that’s the CBI.

A number of individuals and organisations, which previously supported UK membership of the euro and its disastrous predecessor the ERM, and who recently promoted the erroneous view of a severe economic downturn in the immediate aftermath of a leave vote in the referendum, are again offering the government advice.

For example, 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.

As many people have said, including many remain supporters, it is essential to adopt an approach that stresses the UK’s willingness to trade on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms, possibly abolishing import tariffs unilaterally, which would lead to substantial reductions in consumer prices- and increased 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.

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