'Unelected apparatchiks': The boss of the UK's biggest pub chain wants Britain out of Europe
Martin has penned an article backing a so-called "Brexit" - British exit from Europe - that is published alongside the pub chain's half-year results on Friday.
Martin dubs European lawmakers "unelected apparatchiks" and says that the UK's entry into the European Union was spearheaded by the "the European elite" who thought that they "could better handle important matters of state than the great, unwashed, British public, with its interfering courts, aggressive and intruding press, and cantankerous population."
Recalling his objection to the euro's initial introduction, Martin writes: "There is no example in history of a sustainable currency which isn't backed by a single government - it's been tried a few times and has always fallen apart, leaving chaos in its wake."
Martin says he believes, and has benefited from, the free movement of labour, but says that decisions about migration, the biggest issue facing Europe right now, need to be taken on a local level. He writes:
The key issue about migration, similar to the issue about the euro, is that the debate needs to take place in each country and the decisions regarding migration need to be made by elected parliaments in those countries. It makes no sense in the UK for these sensitive issues to be decided by faceless bureaucrats in Brussels, when we're just as capable of deciding ourselves - after all, Americans, Australians and Singaporeans, among many others, have managed to do so by themselves.
Martin says it is ultimately up to the public to decide and concludes: "as those Eurovision songsters Bucks Fizz memorably put it, it's time for making your mind up."
The pub boss' two cents come alongside 6-month results that show growth but a hit to profits due to a rising tax bill. Here are the highlights:
- Revenue: up 6.2% to £790.3 million;
- Sales: up 2.9%;
- Operating profit: down 10.8% to £49.4 million;
- Pre-tax profit: down 2.2% to £36.6 million.
Martin says "the biggest danger to the pub industry is the continuing tax disparity between supermarkets and pubs." The pub chain sets out the difference clearly:
The main disparity relates to VAT (value added tax), since supermarkets pay no VAT in respect of their food sales, whereas pubs pay 20%, enabling supermarkets to subsidise their alcoholic drinks prices. Pubs also pay approximately 15p per pint in respect of business rates, while supermarkets pay only about 1.5-2p per pint.
JD Wetherspoon paid £333 million in tax in the 26 weeks to January 24, an increase of 9.4% on the same period last year.
Pre-tax profit declined as well as operating profit and the company says this is down to "mainly due to a lower gross margin and higher rates of pay for pub staff." Martin and Wetherspoon have been vocal critics of the Government's new National Living Wage, which comes into force in April.
The new regime will force all employers to pay staff at least £7.20 ($10.18) per hour, a £0.70 ($0.99) bump on the current minimum wage. Pubs, many of which rely on minimum wage staff to pull pints and serve food, will be among the hardest hit.
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