Tim Martin, chairman of pub company Wetherspoon, has criticised the response of the British Hospitality Association (BHA) and the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) to the government’s ‘technical notices’ on Brexit issued on 23 August.
The notices provide information on issues arising from a ‘no deal’ outcome.
In response, Kate Nicholls, CEO of the BHA, said a ‘no deal’ Brexit would cause serious problems…..for the hospitality sector.” Nicholls also complained about a “lack of clarity” in the future immigration system for EU citizens.
Ian Wright of the Food and Drink Federation (FDR) said that no deal would be a “grisly prospect”.
Mr Martin said:
“ Unfortunately, these business organisations do not yet, even at this late stage, understand the most basic economics of Brexit, and the consequent effects on the hospitality and related industries”.
“As most people now appreciate, in spite of Project Fear stories to the contrary, the EU is a protectionist organisation, which charges import taxes, often called tariffs, on new-world wine, rice, oranges, coffee and over 12,000 other non-EU products.
“By leaving the EU without a deal in March next year, the UK can opt for free trade and eliminate these tariffs on non-EU imports, immediately reducing prices in shops, pubs and restaurants.
“ As a result, under World Trade Organisational (WTO) rules, EU imports would also be tariff-free since, without a deal, the rules say that all countries must be treated equally.
“By avoiding Theresa May’s proposed deal, the UK also avoids paying £39 billion to the EU, equivalent to £600 for every person in the UK.
“Control of UK fishing waters would also be reasserted, boosting coastal communities.
In addition, non-EU businesses, which are often deterred by tariffs, would be encouraged to invest in UK trade.
“As regards immigration, there were about 280,000 immigrants in 2017 and only 87,000 came from the EU. No sensible person is saying that all EU immigration should end, so doomsday talk on this subject is absurd.
“It has now reached the stage where Project Fear warnings about Brexit, based on factual inaccuracies, are starting to make these business organisations appear ridiculous in the eyes of the public.
“The public implicitly expects businesses to look out for their interests by trying to lower prices.
“Instead, in effect, many business organisations are campaigning for the retention of the current system of tariffs, keeping prices high.
“The reality is that the public and the hospitality industry will be far better off with free trade and no deal.”